Bon Odori…in Hawaii we call it Bon Dance!

Obon or simply Bon is a Japanese Buddhist custom honoring the spirits of one’s ancestors who are no longer with us. This custom is still practiced in Japan and is a family reunion. People return to their family home to get reacquainted, visit and clean their ancestors’ graves and await the return of their ancestors’ spirits. This custom is also known as the Feast of Lanterns because at the end of Obon, usually held in mid August, paper lanterns are illuminated and floated down rivers. This symbolizes the return of the ancestors’ spirits to the world of the dead.

Hawaii has been celebrating Obon for many years in the form of a festive Bon Odori or Bon Dance. There are many Buddhist temples in Hawaii and each summer from June through August many of them have Bon Dances on the weekends. The local community anxiously waits for the Bon Dance schedule to come out. Hard to believe that this summer there are over 30 Bon Dances just in Honolulu! The festivities are fun for the whole family. There’s plenty to eat, many traditional Japanese food, and you can practice your bon dance to the music and beat of the drums.

Honolulu Weekly, a free publication geared towards the young audience, promotes Bon Dance with a full page layout. And according to the writer it is best to dance in the inner circle closest to the professional dancers so that you can learn the dances quickly and become real good at it. That’s determination!

The Koganji Temple Bon Dance was held on Friday and Saturday, August 1st and 2nd from 5:30 to 10:30 P.M. at 2869 Oahu Avenue in Manoa Valley. This beautiful temple is located on the slopes of Manoa Valley. There’s a large parking lot on the top and as you walk down you will see the main temple. And that is where the Bon Dance is held.

Their official name is beautifully displayed in Japanese kanji characters.

On the grounds you will see an area dedicated to the “Ojizou-san”, Ksitigarbha (bodhisattva who looks over children, travelers and the underworld).
And the offering
s include andagi (Okinawan donuts), chichidango (sweet rice cakes) and plate lunches. So local!

These are mini “ojizou-san”.

The landscape is immaculate and the gardens are heavenly.

There are many temples in Hawaii and many other bon dances but somehow the Manoa Koganji Temple makes you fee l spiritual and refr eshed. Perhaps it is due to itslocation and the total atmosphere of the surroundings.

A commencement prayer is read as members bow their heads.And then the Bon Dance begins!
Participants wear yukata (cotton kimono) and happi (happi co
ats) and dance around the yagura which is a high wooden scaffold/bandstand where the musicians and singers perform their Obon music. The dance steps are quite easy to learn for each of the songs. Usually the Bon Dance association members who have been dancing each year will teach the other participants and repeat the dances so that everyone can practice. It is really a lot of fun. I particularly recall watching the Hawaii teenagers enjoying the dance steps and jazzing it up to resemble a line dance something similar to the Electric Slide! This is a true example of “cultural exchange”! The music that is played is not limited to traditional Obon music and Japanese folk songs. New tunes focusing on kids anime such as Pokemon are also popular.

The Pokemon Dance

There was also a Children’s Lantern Parade and Taiko (Japanese drum) performance. Food booths offered local and traditional food including grilled corn-on-the-cob, andagi (Okinawan donuts), bento(Japanese box lunches), yakisoba (fried noodles), and plate lunches (local version).

What a wonderful way to spend an evening in Honolulu…Bon Dance at the Manoa Koganji Temple.

The Bon Dance season during Hawaii’s summer is a cultural event that you won’t want to miss.


Honolulu Festival Logo Items to be Sold Online Soon

The Honolulu Festival Foundation has been working diligently on this project for quite some time now. Our goal is to be able to introduce all sorts of logo items that local residents and visitors may be interested in purchasing. One of the most popular gifts that folks buy in Hawaii is the T-shirt. Hawaii and T-shirt, they go hand in hand, just like cake and ice cream. The people who live in Hawaii wear T-shirts constantly. And they are always looking for new ones with different designs. The visitors to Hawaii also buy them as gifts for others and for themselves to commemorate their stay in our beautiful islands. Each year, the Honolulu Festival has been producing a logo T-shirt based on a special theme. And we also make a baseball cap to go along with it. These can be purchased during the event at the Hawaii Convention Center. But we also get many requests even after our annual event. And thus we have decided to sell them online in the near future.

Something that we created for the 14th Annual Honolulu Festival that was used for a give-away was a recyclable shopping bag with the Honolulu Festival logo on it. It was quite popular and we hope to continue this idea to maintain ecological awareness amongst our participants and spectators…Go Green!

And we are in the midst of creating three T-shirts with special Honolulu Festival designs to be sold right on our website. The creative designs for the new T-shirts are stylish and keep the traditions and culture of the Pacific Rim in mind. Please stay tuned for our logo items. Aloha.

Chibikko Daijayama to be Featured in 15th Annual Honolulu Festival


Daijayama is the Fire Spitting Dragon from Japan’s Fukuoka Prefecture in Kyushu. Each summer the Daijayama Summer Festival attracts over 400,000 spectators, celebrating an old legend dating back over a thousand years.Dragon floats parade through the main streets in Fukuoka Prefecture each July manned by thousands of people. Folklore has it that the dragon is a water god, blessing the farmlands with water and children with good health.

The Honolulu Festival has been featuring this towering dragon float measuring 20 feet in height and 33 feet in length in the Grand Parade for the past several years. Manned by volunteers from Japan and Hawaii, it is one of the most exciting sights to see. The fireworks light up the skies of Waikiki and the performers dance to the drums and flutes traditional of Japan.
The exciting news is that we will be adding a “Chibikko Daijayama” in the 15th Annual Honolulu Festival. “Chibikko” is a slang word meaning “Kids” in Japanese. This means that not only will we the large Daijayama but also a little one manned by the kids of Honolulu!
Representatives of the Honolulu Festival Foundation from Hawaii and Osaka were invited to attend the Daijayama Summer Festival in Omuta in July. And granted the summer weather was quite unbearable but the experience was once in a lifetime. It is customary to cut off the heads of the dragons at the end of the Festival and burn it. Fortunately we were able to rescue the Chibikko Daijayama. It will be brought over to Honolulu to participate in the 15th Annual Honolulu Festival Grand Parade. This is great news because there is nothing cuter than watching the children of Hawaii parading down Waikiki’s Kalakaua Avenue dressed up in their Japanese happi coats! You won’t want to miss this new addition. Please come and join us!
[Honolulu Festival Official Site]