Maui Ryukyu Culture Group to Present Lion Awakening Ceremony

August 12, 2009, 3:32 PM HST · Updated August 12, 3:32 PM

Borrowing the customs and influence of China and Southeast Asia, LooChoo, now known as Okinawa, has deep attachment to the symbolic celestial guardian, Shisaa, or lion.  All over Okinawa you can see the ceramic images of shisaa on rooftops or flanking entry ways to houses and businesses.  More historic however is the shisaa mo-i, or lion dance, that appears at certain times of the year and celebrations, or for excorsisms. 

Many villages have the shisaa and take great care of it as it is believed to be the guardian of the community. The shisaa outfit is kept in a special house or area, and prayers and offerings are given by members of the community.

It is a great event and celebration when a community first has a shisaa or makes a new one.  A ceremony is presented to give the lion its first breath and awaken it. The ceremony differs from place to place, and some more elaborate than others.  The whole community usually gathers for the event, with the elders, as the main witnesses to the passing down of this part of their culture.  Since this ceremony is usually done only upon creation or receiving a new lion, it is a once in a lifetime event for many.  The ceremony is presided over by a woman who is chosen as a spiritual leader to pray and ask the ancestors for their blessing, and to bring the breath and spirit of the lion.  She is there to represent the community and give thanks to the ancestors of the past and present.  After the short rituals are done, the lion dancers enter the outfit and have the lion dance for the first time.  This is considered to be a very auspicious event for anyone in attendance.

This summer, the Maui Ryukyu Culture Group will present this lion awakening ceremony at Paia Rinzai Zen


Mission’s bon dance festival on Saturday August 22nd.  The lion is thought to be the first for Maui’s Okinawan community, and what makes it more special is that it was made in Maui by members of the Maui Ryukyu Culture Group.  There have been only three other lions that were made in Hawaii, all in Honolulu. This rare event will be open to the public and all are invited.  The MRCG has been active in learning and passing down the traditional culture and arts of Okinawa.  They also invite anyone interested to join.

The Paia Rinzai Zen Mission (in Baldwin Beach Park) will start their obon practice every Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning July 23 and ending August 18, 2009 at 7 p.m.

If anyone has questions, please email or call Julie Higa at [email protected] or 264-2765.

Date: Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Paia Rinzai Zen Mission
120 Alawai Rd
Paia, HI USA 96779

Contact: Julie Higa
Phone: 808-264-2765
Email: [email protected]


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