Saturday, July 18, 2015

Kauai Soto Zen Bon Festival 2015

With the smell of incense intertwined with freshly grilled yakitori wafting through the air, I know it is that time of year again...time for Kauai's Bon Dance events.  I'm not a dancer myself, but I thoroughly enjoy this fun, family event as I sample the local foods, marvel at the brightly colored lanterns strung around the temple, listen to the beat of the Taiko drums, and eye the beautiful Japanese-American ladies dressed up in their kimonos, happi coats, and yukatas.

Kauai Soto Zen Temple Bon Dance
Kauai Soto Zen Temple Japanese Buddhist

 Bon is a time to honor the spirits of the deceased family members.  It originates with the Buddha who helped one of his disciples with his deceased mother's spirit by offering her food so that she wouldn't be hungry and would be released from the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.  He was so happy that he danced with joy and that is where we get the Bon odori or Bon Dance.  During Bon, offerings of food are also placed on altars and graves of loved ones, and the lanterns are strung in memory of family members who have passed.

Hanapepe Buddha Statue

Kauai Soto Zen Temple Hanapepe

Bon odori also differs from region to region in the style of dance, music and food.  On Kauai you will find unique dishes from this region as well as traditional Japanese food.  My favorites are the flying saucers, saimin, yakitori, pastele plates, smoked meat, and manju to name a few.  You will also be treated to the sounds of Kauai's own Taiko Kauai, a very energetic and fun precision drumming group.

Taiko Kauai at Bon Festival Dance Hanapepe

Bon odori dance Kauai Hanapepe kimono kimonos Japanese

As if this wasn't enough, there are game booths for the keiki, cultural displays, shave ice, and special performances.  But, of course, the main attraction is always the dancing of the local people in a circle around a raised platform.  They invite everyone who wants to dance (even visitors) to join the circle.  And then at the end of the event, they have a fire burning ceremony called Taklage where the spirits are sent back home.

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