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O-Bon festival June 14 at Honomu Henjoji Mission

The Honomu Henjoji Mission (Odaishisan) will host its annual Hatsu Bon and O-Bon services and O-Bon dance Saturday, June 14. Services will begin at 5 p.m., and the dance will follow at 7 p.m., with live music by the Hilo Bon Dance Club. Hatsu Bon, or First Bon, is a service performed for a person who died since the previous year’s O-Bon.

The public is invited to bring family and friends and attend this festive evening. The congregation will have a food concession, with proceeds to benefit the church building fund.

The menu will include saimin, hot dogs, cold drinks, coffee, bottled water and shaved ice.

For more information, call the Rev. Clark Watanabe at 963-6308. To reach the Henjoji Mission, take the Akaka Falls turnoff mauka of Highway 19. The temple is next to Mr. Ed’s Bakery in Honomu.

Japanese immigrants brought many traditions to Hawaii. One of these was the O-Bon dance festival. O-Bon season runs from June through August, and is a ceremony that honors the ancestors of those living today.

According to Watanabe, O-Bon dancing originated to honor the deceased and it is called “The Festival of the Souls,” “The Feast of the Dead” or “The Festival of Lanterns.”

Practitioners believe the souls of the departed return to be with the living during O-Bon, and people commonly celebrate by tending family graves and by offering food.

This is a joyous event, celebrating the return of the souls, and there is much happiness that they are back.

To guide their ancestors, the Japanese traditionally have made special objects such as chochin, or lanterns; toronagashi, floating lanterns of paper; or straw boats with candles.

The O-Bon dance formation is generally a circle or several concentric circles, depending on the number of participants. Musicians are usually in the middle of the dancers in a small tower called a yagura.

“The O-Bon Dance is a tradition that has been passed down from the Japanese immigrants to the people of Hawaii,” said Watanabe. “Today, many people participate in the O-Bon dance, commonly known as the Bon dance. Although it began as a Japanese tradition, many other people of different races also honor their ancestors during this time.”


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