Hawaii’s temples honor the season with virtual bon dances

Hawaii’s temples honor the season with virtual bon dances

With Zoom meetings taking the place of public gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic, there have been everything from online cocktail hours to church services, so why not virtual bon dances?

Moiliili Hongwanji Mission organizers knew how badly their members would miss its annual bon dance, which highlights the popular community-­wide annual Moiliili Summer Fest every July.

To fill the void left by its cancellation, they’ve made a video to encourage their members to hold their own small celebrations at home, and provided other tangible ways for them to get into the spirit, including bentos. (It was not a livestreamed video and can be played anytime.)

Japanese immigrants brought the obon (shortened to “bon”) tradition to Hawaii, many of them settling into Moiliili, one of the oldest neighborhoods, which now encompasses people of diverse ethnicity. They all come to enjoy eating ono local favorites, playing games, and dancing to the beat of taiko drums and shamisen (three-stringed Japanese instrument) music, whether or not they know the ritual dance moves. The event is normally so large it’s held at the former Varsity Theatre parking lot, and spills out into nearby Coyne Street.

The Rev. Toshiyuki Umitani, the temple’s resident minister, said the video would never be able to duplicate the liveliness and excitement of a real bon dance, “but we’re trying to provide a little bit of it. Bon (season) is like summer has finally come! We hope people will feel the energy of summer.”

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