The centuries-old custom of Obon came to Hawai‘i in the 19th Century with sugar cane plantation workers. The Japanese summer tradition honors ancestors who have passed on and expresses appreciation for giving us life. Festivities can include Bon Odori or Bon Dance, along with taiko drumming, lanterns, offering incense, wearing traditional clothing (kimono, yukata, or happi coat), and other entertainment such as martial arts performances, crafts, and foods.
Bon Odori takes no technical skills or special clothes to participate. Just follow along and mimic others in the group; you’ll be fine! Anyone is welcome to take part. If you have never experienced Bon Odori, dress in loose, comfortable clothing and shoes. A chair or mat to rest on is a good idea—available seating can be hard to come by. Finally, be sure to come hungry and bring some cash. There will be some booths selling Hawaiian and Japanese treats.
Listed below for each island are public Obon Festivals and Bon Dances. Most are held during summer throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
We found nany temples are not hosting bon dances in 2022 or offering virtual celebrations from last year.
Hawaiʻi Obon Festivals
Honoka’a Hongwanji Buddhist Temple traditionally memorializes temple members who have died this year (“hatsubon”). However, temple members and the general public are invited to submit names of other loved ones to be included in the printed program and/or read at the annual Obon Community Memorial Service. When the names of the departed are read aloud, their ‘ohana is invited to step forward and symbolically offer incense in their memory. Anyone—regardless of faith—is encouraged to participate. Following the ceremony, there is a Bon Dance, where lanterns illuminate dancers in their happi coats, performing the traditional dances around central taiko drums. Everyone of all ages is welcome to join in. More info: Honoka’a Hongwanji Buddhist Temple (honokaahongwanjibuddhisttemple.org)
Kauaʻi Obon Festivals
Grove Farm Bon Odori Festival at Puhi Park. Bring your ʻohana and join in celebrating Obon Season to honor our ancestors and perpetuate culture. Bring a chair or mat and prepare to dance the night away! More info: Grove Farm Bon Odori
Maui Obon Festival
Lahaina Hongwanji Shin Buddhist temple (Jodo Shinshu) hosts an Obon Festival in mid-August. More info: Lahaina Hongwanji Website
Oʻahu Obon Festivals
Soto Mission of Aiea Taiheiji’s Bon Dance is held annually on the second Friday and Saturday in August. Coming together in the dance circle naturally unites people, even perfect strangers, in a prayer for universal peace, the true aim of Bon Odori. It is a festive event drawing hundreds of people for two evenings of dancing and food. The evening begins with an exciting taiko performance. More info: Bon Dance – SOTO MISSION OF AIEA
Jodo Mission of Hawaiʻi in Honolulu is a Jodo Shu Buddhist temple in Makiki. More info: Jodo Mission of Hawaiʻi | Honolulu
Calendar of upcoming obon events
Obon Festivals typically occur in mid-summer and will be listed here when they are announced by organizers.
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