In Japan, bon dance season takes place in August. Here in Hawaii, the season starts earlier so that more of the community can partake. The dances are staggered at various locations throughout the summer, such as at Daifukuji Soto Zen Mission in Honalo, or Kona Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Kealakekua. Some bon dances even take place in parking lots of shopping centers, like Keauhou Shopping Center in Keauhou.
Participants come to dance, while other come to simply watch and enjoy the festivities. Everyone is welcome to dance, regardless of skill. Each church or mission hosts dance practices weeks prior to their event. The celebration is about unity and community bonding, so the more the merrier. There is no admission fee. Children have fun, too.
Towels and fans are often utilized in the dance. Some dances include taiko drumming, flute playing and singing. Pre-recorded music is also played. Also called “o-bon,” the Japanese bon dance tradition originated during the Muromachi Period from 1400 to 1430, beginning as a simple style of dance known as “Nembutsu Hayashi Mono.” Bon dance provided the community an outlet from the daily hard work of agricultural life. Today, bon dance is a time to replenish spiritual values, family life and harmony.
2016 Big Island Bon Dance Schedule:
July 16 (Sat.): Honokaa Hongwanji, 7 p.m., following 5:30 p.m. bon service; 3:30 p.m. graveside service at Kukuihaele Cemetery; 4 p.m. graveside service at Honokaa Cemetery (45-516 Lehua St., 775-7232)
July 16 (Sat.): Keei Buddhist Church (Kona Hongwanji), 7 p.m., following 6 p.m. service; cemetery service at 5 p.m. (83-5569 Middle Keei Rd., 323-2993)
July 23 (Sat.): Hilo Hooganji Mission, 7:30 p.m., following 6 p.m. service Obon service on Sunday, July 24, at 9:30 a.m.; Toro Nagashi at Wailoa Harbor on Sunday, July 24, at 7 p.m. (457 Manono St., 935-8331)
July 23 (Sat.): Kona
Hongwanji, 7 p.m., following lantern parade at 6:30 p.m.; Hatsubon service on Sunday, July 24, at 9 a.m. (81-6630 Mämalahoa Hwy., 323-2993)
July 23 (Sat.): Papaaloa Hongwanji, 6 p.m., following 5 p.m. service (35-2026 Old Mämalahoa Hwy., 962-6340)
July 30 (Sat.): Hilo Taishoji Soto Mission, 7-10 p.m.; Taishoji Taiko will perform; Hatsubon service on Sunday, July 31, at 9 a.m.; Toro Nagashi on Sunday, July 31, at 5 p.m. at the Wailoa River. (275 Kino‘ole St., 935-8407)
Aug. 6 (Sat.): Hawi Jodo Mission, 6 p.m., following 5:30 p.m. service; Obon service on Sunday, Aug. 7, at 10 a.m. (55-1104 Akoni Pule Hwy., 775-0965)
Aug. 6 (Sat.): Kurtistown Jodo Mission, 8 p.m., following Hatsubon and Obon service at 7 p.m. (17-4025 Kuaina Rd., 935-6996)
Aug. 12 (Fri.): Life Care Center of Hilo (Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin), 6 p.m., refreshments available (944 W. Kawailani St., 959-9151)
Aug. 13 (Sat.): Hamakua Jodo Mission, 7 p.m., following 6 p.m. service (44-2947 Kalöpä Rd., 775-0965)
Aug. 13 (Sat.): Kona Koyasan Daishiji Mission, 7 p.m., service at 5 p.m. (Hölualoa, 324-1741)
Aug. 20 (Sat.): Kamuela Hongwanji, 7 p.m., following 6 p.m. service; 4:30 p.m. graveside service at Kamuela Japanese Cemetery (65-1110 Mämalahoa Hwy., 885-4481)
Aug. 20 (Sat.): Hakalau Jodo Mission, 7 p.m., following Hatsubon and Obon service at 6 p.m. (29-2271 Old Mämalahoa Hwy., 935-6996)
Aug. 21 (Sun.): Pahala Hongwanji Mission, 5-9 p.m.; Obon service at 4 p.m. (96-1123 Pä‘au‘au Pl., 928-8254)
Aug. 27 (Sat.): Honohina Hongwanji, 7 p.m., following 6 p.m. service (32-896 Mämalahoa Hwy., 963-6032)