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2024 Maui Bon Dance Schedule: upcoming Obon season dedicated to memory of ancestors, those lost in Lahaina wildfires

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Special to Maui Now by Cy Yoshizu
Scroll down to view 2024 Maui Bon Dance Schedule

Chochin (lanterns) adorn the yagura (tower) and light the way for the dancers at the 2023 Lahaina Jodo Mission Bon Dance held on July 1, 2023. The Lahaina Jodo Mission was destroyed in the devastating 2023 Lahaina Wildfires. Photo courtesy: Cy Yoshizu

The Bon dance season is set to make its return to Maui this summer. The Japanese Buddhist tradition of Obon, which is held at various temples throughout Maui County, is a community celebration to honor and offer prayers to the spirits of ancestors through music and dance.

“Obon is a time of remembrance and expressing our gratitude to our beloved ones and ancestors,” said Reverend Gensho Hara of the Lahaina Jodo Mission. “Since our temple burned down, we will not be holding a public Obon festival this year, but hope to be ready next year.”

Temples will be dedicating the upcoming Obon season to remember ancestors, departed loved ones, and family and friends who were lost in the Lahaina wildfires. Reverend Hara will be joining his son, Reverend John Hara, who is the resident minister of the Wailuku Jodo Mission and Kahului Jodo Mission temples, for their Obon festivals.

“In welcoming the Hatsubon (first Obon) of our Lahaina fire victims, we would like to offer our prayers to them for their eternal peace,” said Reverend Hara. “We also pray for the peace of mind of the survivors embraced by the Great Compassion of Amida Buddha.”

Reverend Hara expressed how Obon is also a time to reflect on our own life’s journey.

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“I am fortunate that my family and I survived the fires,” said Reverend Hara. “Now my wife and I live with our daughter, Maya and look forward to rebuilding our temple back in Lahaina.”

This year, the Maui Hongwanji temples are introducing a new dance titled ‘Lantern Song’. The song was commissioned by the Buddhist Churches of America to celebrate their 125th anniversary. ‘Lantern Song’ was written and created by Bonbu Stories, an Asian American arts collaborative group based out of California, whose mission is to share stories and build connections through music. For more information about Bonbu Stories, you can visit their website here.

The meaning of ‘Lantern Song’ reflects a conversation from our present generation to our ancestors. The lyrics first describe our perspective when we grieve the loss of a loved one and how we are able to hear and remember them when we are at Obon. The song goes on to express how when we view the lighted chochin (lanterns), we remember that we are embraced by compassion and guided by their light.

Bonbu Stories member, Kendall Tani, has a special connection to Maui. Tani’s great-grandmother, Florence Sakae, was the oldest active member at Makawao Hongwanji Buddhist Temple for many years before she passed away at the age of 105 earlier this year in January.

“For me personally, this project has been a perfect opportunity to learn more about Buddhism and cultivate a relationship with my own recent grief and losses,” said Tani in an email correspondence. “It’s given me a chance to feel closer to my great-grandma, her life in the temple, and in her death. I wish I could have shown her our project.”

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The Puʻunēnē Nichiren Mission will kick off the 2024 Obon season next weekend on June 8. The Hāna Buddhist Temple will host the last Bon dance of the season on Sept. 7.

Dancers make their way around the dancing ring at the 2023 Puʻunēnē Nichiren Mission Bon Dance. Their temple will be hosting the first bon dance of the 2024 Bon dance season on June 8. Photo courtesy: Cy Yoshizu

2024 Maui Bon Dance Schedule

Saturday, June 8
Puʻunēnē Nichiren Mission
service 6 p.m.; dance 7:30 p.m.
Address: 9 Ani St.
808-871-4831 dyomura808@gmail.com

Friday, June 14
Wailuku Jodo Mission
Service 6 p.m.; dance 7 p.m.
Address: 67 Central Ave.
808-244-0066 johnhara@gmail.com

Saturday, June 15
Wailuku Shingon Mission
Service 6:30 p.m.; dance 7:30 p.m.
Address: 1939 North St.
808-244-3800 sorapapa@yahoo.com

Saturday, June 29
Kahului Jodo Mission
Service 6:30 p.m.; dance 7:30 p.m.
Address: 325 Lāʻau St.
808-871-4911 johnhara@gmail.com

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Saturday, July 13
Pāʻia Mantokuji Soto Zen Mission
Service only 6 p.m. Friday, July 12
Dance only 7 p.m. Saturday, July 13
Address: 281 Hāna Highway
808-579-8051 info@paiamantokuji.org

Friday, July 19 and Saturday, July 20
Kahului Hongwanji Mission
On both nights: service 6 p.m. and dance 7:30 p.m.
Address: 291 S. Puʻunēnē Ave.
808-871-4732 kahuluihongwanjimission@gmail.com

Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27
Makawao Hongwanji Mission
On both nights: service 5 p.m. and dance 7 p.m.
Address: 1074 Makawao Ave.
808-572-7229 makawaohongwanji@gmail.com

Saturday, July 27
Guzeiji Soto Mission of Molokaʻi
Dance 6 p.m.
Address: 90 Hotel Lane
808-553-5197

Friday, Aug. 2 and Saturday, Aug. 3
Wailuku Hongwanji Mission
On both nights: service 6:30 p.m. and dance 7:45 p.m.
Address: 1828 Vineyard St.
808-244-0406 whm@wailukuhongwanji.org

Saturday, Aug. 17
Pāʻia Rinzai Zen Mission
Service 6 p.m.; dance 7 p.m.
Address: 120 Alawai Road
808-268-4216 info@rinzai-maui.org

Saturday, Aug. 24
Kula Shofukuji Mission
Service 5 p.m.; dance 7 p.m.
Address: 113 Puanani Place
808-661-0466 mail.lahainashingon.org

Saturday, Aug. 31
Lānaʻi Hongwanji Mission
Dance 7 p.m.
Address: 1364 Frasier Ave.
808-565-6817 hongwanjilanai@me.com

Saturday, Sept. 7
Hāna Buddhist Temple
Dance 5 p.m.
Address: 1819 Hāna Highway
808-248-7010 hanabuddhisttemple@gmail.com

Obon participants dance under the setting sun at the 2023 Lānaʻi Hongwanji Mission Bon Dance held on July 8, 2023. Photo courtesy: Cy Yoshizu
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