Bon dance lanterns

Oh! Obon Season

Every summer, I’d adorn a kimono and head to the Honpa Hongwanji in Hilo for the annual bon dance. Lips stained red from wearing my mom’s lipstick and later by strawberry shave ice, I’d enjoy a humid but happy evening of spirited dance and fun with friends. 

At some point, I’d exchange a few quarters for hearty andagi and savor each doughy bite. 

As an adult, I see the bon dance season as a unique opportunity to honor the memory of my maternal grandparents and give thanks for this life. It’s a nice community event that brings families and friends together over the fervent beat of taiko drums and delicious food.   

One of Hawaii's largest bon dance events will be held at Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin on Pali Highway this Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m. While each temple event may vary slightly, attendees at this bon dance can visit the “Bon-tique,” a specialty store selling gently used Asian treasures and goods, or have their portrait taken in the main hall dressed in kimono and yukata in exchange for a small donation. 

Hearty food selections include beef stew, barbecue meat, baked goods, and refreshing shave ice. 

Limited parking is available on the temple side with additional parking at Hongwanji Mission School and Prince David Kawananakoa Middle School. 

Check out the full statewide bon dance schedule here.

Have a favorite bon dance memory? Feel free to share in the comment section below.