By Caroline Wright
Each summer, the courtyards and lawns and parking lots of Hawaii's Buddhist temples come alive with excitement and activity.
Carpenters and volunteers put the finishing touches on elevated stages called yagura and cover their bases with red and white striped canvas.
Across the Hawaiian Islands, dozens of hongwanji, or temples, host Bon Festivals and dances, in a season that generally begins in June and ends in late August. The origins of this fascinating tradition begin with the story of a disciple of Buddha who used his supernatural powers to look upon his recently deceased mother. When he saw that she was miserable and surrounded by hungry spirits, he asked the Buddha for guidance, and was told to make offerings to his fellow monks. His mother was released, and he danced with joy.
Japanese immigrants brought the tradition to Hawaii, and the first bon dance was held here in 1910. Dances at some of the larger temples attract huge crowds. But the festivals aren't just for spectators, or for Buddhists, or for those of Japanese descent. Everybody's welcome to join the dancers as they circle the yagura. The food at bon festivals is legendary and reasonably priced, and some events also have craft booths. You can make new friends, sample delicious treats (don't miss the andagi!), and pay tribute to ancestral spirits. Grab a happi coat and join the dance!
Hongwanji around the Hawaiian Islands
Here's a sampling of Buddhist hongwanji that host bon dances each summer between June and August. Please call to inquire about dates and details.
Date(s): Annually, June through August
Location: Various Buddhist hongwanji (temples) throughout Hawaii
Haleiwa Jodo Mission, (808) 637-4382
Haleiwa Shingon Mission, (808) 637-4423
Honpa Hongwanji, (808) 536-7044
Jodo Mission of Hawaii, (808) 949-3995
Koboji Shingon Mission, (808) 841-7033
Manoa Koganji, (808) 988-4905
Mililani Hongwanji, (808) 625-0925
Moiliili Hongwanji, (808) 949-1659
Nichiren Mission of Hawaii, (808) 595-3517
Shingon Shu Hawaii, (808) 941-5663
Shinshu Kyokai Mission, (808) 973-0150
Soto Mission of Hawaii Shoboji, (808) 537-9409
Hilo Higashi Hongwanji, (808) 935-8968
Kamuela Hongwanji, (808) 775-7232
Kohala Hongwanji, (808) 775-7532
Kohala Jodo Mission, (808) 889-5456
Kona Daifukuji Soto Mission, (808) 322-3524
Kona Hongwanji, (808) 323-2993
Kona Koyasan Daishiji Mission, (808) 324-1741
Papaikou Hongwanji, (808) 964-1640
Puna Hongwanji Pahoa Shibu, (808) 966-9981
Lihue Hongwanji, (808) 245-6262
Kapaa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, (808) 822-4667
Kapaa Jodo Mission, (808) 822-4319
Koloa Jodo Mission, (808) 742-6735
Waimea Shingon Mission, (808) 388-1854
West Kauai Hongwanji Hanapepe Temple, (808) 338-1537
West Kauai Hongwanji Waimea Temple, (808) 338-1537
Kahului Hongwanji, (808) 871-4732
Kahului Jodo Mission, (808) 244-0066
Lahaina Hongwanji, (808) 661-0640
Lahaina Jodo Mission, (808) 661-4304
Makawao Hongwanji, (808) 572-7229
Wailuku Hongwanji, (808) 244-0406
Wailuku Jodo Mission, (808) 244-0066
Wailuku Shingon Mission, (808) 242-5618
Lanai Hongwanji, (808) 565-6151)
Guzeiji Soto Mission of Molokai, (808) 537-9409
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