First ever ‘Traveling Bon Dance’ conducted in Honokaa

  • Courtesy photo The bon dancers of Honokaa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple took their traditional bon dance on the road Aug. 2 to celebrate the lives of loved ones lost this year. A mini-caravan of pickup trucks and cars paraded to homes in the community, with the dancers performing on lawns or in driveways.

  • Courtesy photo The first ever “Traveling Bon Dance” began Aug. 2 at the Honokaa cemetery.

Honokaa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple presented Hawaii’s only live bon dance event “in real time” on Aug. 2, as dancers and helpers took the show on the road, visiting homes in the community.

The first ever “Traveling Bon Dance” began at the Honokaa cemetery, where participants honored departed loved ones in a ceremonial dance. Afterward, a caravan of pickup trucks and cars moved from house to house to perform in yards or driveways.

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Special effort was made to reach families who lost loved ones in the past year. One of the stops was at Hale Ho‘ola, a senior citizens care facility.

Since many of the members and performers are kupuna, everyone took special care to practice safety all the way, wearing their masks and keeping their distances.

The centuries-old tradition came to Hawaii from Japan along with sugar cane plantation workers in the 1800s, and has become a favorite summertime festivity throughout the islands. The event, usually in conjunction with a community memorial service, celebrates the lives of ancestors with traditional music and dance.

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This year represents the Honokaa Hongwanji’s 117th year of celebration.

There are no other live bon dances planned on Hawaii Island this year, and thus far, only virtual bon dances statewide.

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