Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I would have if I knew how or if I wasn't by myself. On Saturday, I drove like a madwoman back into town from Hawaii Kai so I could experience my first Bon Odori otherwise known as Bon dance at the Jodo Mission of Hawaii. It was scheduled to begin at 7.30pm and I got there around 6.45pm after securing a sorta good parking spot nearby. The colorful lanterns were up and as soon as I sat down on one of the many folding chairs, all of the lanterns lights came on. Pretty! It wasn't as packed as I'd imagined it would be but it did get crowded as the night goes on. Some were dressed in their colorful yukata or an informal kimono for summer wear, while others choose to wear happi, or a workman's livery coat. The dancers that were performing dressed up in their full kimono garb. I would love to own one someday :) Below are some photos that I took. Enjoy!

Dancers movements are driven by the beat of the drum. Using live or recorded music, dancers encircle a wooden tower called a yagura and dance in the storytelling step dances that relay simple tales of rural Japan and early plantation days in Hawaii. Also, the live or recorded music varies with slower songs to fast upbeat favorites such as a dance using a towel. This one lady sitting next to me starts to tell me stories of how she's been dancing all these years and her favorite is "Tanko Bushi," a song that tells the story of coal miners. Click on this, this, this, this, this and this to view videos I got to capture on my camera. The one thing that really bothered me was this one kid who kept jumping like a monkey in front of me everytime I tried to record the dance on my camera (you'll see him!). I gave him stern looks but had no effect on him watsoever. I even felt like slapping the little bugga but I didn't want to create a scene (I should have!). And his parents who were standing behind me did nothing! Stupid!

The "Bon season" is an important part of the present-day culture and life of Hawaii. As the festive dance and ono food might be the main attraction, the o-bon season's purpose is remembering the deceased. O-bon literally means "lantern festival." The mellow, old-fashioned lights are intended to illuminate the path of the spirits of ancestors as they return in this season. The spirits are honored with offerings of flowers, food, prayers and incense in temple rituals and on family altars. But the popular expression of remembering the dead is the bon dance. This form of sacred dance dates back 2,500 years to the founder of Buddhism, Shakyamuni Buddha.

I'm really glad I got to experience this happy celebration with other island residents! Next year, I want to check out several bon dances around Oahu and hopefully by then I'll know how to dance. R tells me that of all them, the one to go is Haleiwa Jodo Mission because it completes its Obon observance with a Toro Nagashi, lantern floating ceremony.

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