Experience a Bon Dance in Hawaii

Bon dance Hawaii

During Hawai‘i’s summer months, temple courtyards and parking lots are lit up with lanterns. The aroma of barbecue and different foods fills the air. The loud beat of the taiko drums keep tempo for the people who dance the bon odori (folk dances) in unison around the drummers.

Obon festival, also known as the Festival of Lanterns, is a tradition rooted in Buddhism that commemorates the dead. Traditionally, families light lanterns and visit the graves of loved ones who have passed on, offering flowers, food, and drinks. It is based on a Buddhist text that tells the story of a devout monk who danced for joy after releasing his mother’s spirit from the hungry ghost realm.

Today, people of all ages and religious backgrounds dance in celebration of being alive and to honor those who have passed on. Different Obon Festivals have already started around Hawai’i and many more will follow throughout summer, with food vendors, performances, and activities. Join the circle of dance at some of these Obon festivals around O‘ahu:

Moili’ili Summer Fest
1100 University Ave. | July 7 | 5 p.m.
Bon dance, keiki games, cultural activities, entertainment and more.
Free shuttle service from 4 – 10:30 p.m.

Kane’ohe Higashi Hongwanji
45-520 Kea’ahala Rd. | July 7 | 6:30 – 10 p.m.
Buddhist ceremony begins at 6 p.m.
Food booths open at 5:30 p.m.

Haleiwa Shingon Mission
66-469 Pa’ala’a Rd. | July 13-14 | 7 – 10:30 p.m.
Great Stupa service from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on both evenings.

Waipahu Hongwanji Mission
94-821 Kuhaulua St. | July 14 | 7 p.m.
Service begins at 6 p.m.

Waianae Hongwanji Mission
85-762 Old Governemnt Rd. | July 21 | 7 p.m.
Service begins at 6 p.m.

Palolo Hongwanji
1641 Palolo Ave. | July 27-28 | 6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Service begins at 6 p.m. on both evenings.
Food booths open at 5:30 p.m.
Free parking and shuttle service from Sacred Hearts Academy at 5:30 p.m.

Valley of the Temples
47-200 Kahekili HWY | August 4 | 4 – 9 p.m.
Floating lantern ceremony from 8 to 9 p.m.

Pearl City Hongwanji Mission
858 2nd St. | August 10-11 | 7 = 10 p.m.
Food booths and country store open at 5:30 p.m.
Hatsubon service begins at 5:30 p.m. only on August 11.

Jodo Mission of Hawaii
1429 Makiki St. | August 17-18 | 6:30 = 9:30 p.m.

Mililani Hongwanji Mission
95-257 Kaloapau St. | August 17-18 | 7 p.m.
Silent auction, country store, and food trucks.
Children’s lantern parade begins at 6:45 p.m. on August 17.

Kapahulu Center
3410 Campbell Ave. | August 25 | 6 – 10 p.m.
Food booths, crafts and keiki activities begin at 4 p.m.

Aiea Hongwanji Mission
99-186 Puakala St. | August 25 | 7 p.m.
Service begins at 6 p.m.

Images by Aaron Yoshino. See the full set from the Honpa Hongwanji Obon festival here.

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