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Hanapepe temple celebrates Obon through Sunday

HANAPEPE — “It’s the middle of the week and the weather is nice,” said Gerald Hirata, president of the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple Zenshuji in Hanapepe. “I never expected this kind of turnout. The bigger things are happening on Saturday and Sunday.”

The temple, Hirata and many volunteers launched the five-day Celebrating the Spirit of Obon festival Wednesday to a steady stream of visitors pouring over the grounds of the Hanapepe site, pausing for photos of the temple decorated with 500 chochin, or lanterns,
dancing in the winds blowing off the Kalaheo plateau.

Traditional bon-dance games and activities beckoned for attention, people flocked to the social hall as an escape from the Westside sun and heat and paused to study the exhibits on plantation life, the original Wahiawa Camp, and the integration of obon celebrations into the plantation lifestyle.

“Because the Obon 2022 season has been canceled by the Kaua‘i Buddhist Council, our focus this year is to let our guests experience the cultural and religious traditions of Obon by participating in activities and rituals that Buddhists and the Japanese people do,” Hirata said.

Obon is a time when Buddhists believe the spirits of deceased loved ones and ancestors return to the earthly world to reunite with their living family.

“A person dies twice,” said Jim Jung, who appointed himself as the keeper of the bonsho, or the large bell in the bell tower on the western end of the temple grounds. “A person dies physically. The second way a person dies is when no one remembers them.”

Games and activities are modified to reflect its adaptation to the current lifestyle, like the toilet war where participants try to toss a roll of toilet paper into a toilet target.

“We’re going to have the cork guns Saturday,” said Kamryn Nitta, a young volunteer manning the game booths.

A lot of people have been calling about food, Hirata said.

“Thursday and Friday we have light faire that includes chili, hot dog and ice cake in the old style,” Hirata said. “On Saturday and Sunday afternoon starting at 4 p.m. we’ll have the bon-festival food like the flying saucers (prepared by the West Kaua‘i Lions Club), nishime and shoyu chicken. This works because a lot of the events with bigger audiences take place Saturday and Sunday afternoon.”

Volunteers Maureen and Roy Miyashiro were enjoying a late lunch of chili with a hot dog on top, pausing to talk with Glenn Hirano and Vivian, who arrived from California to help Hirata with the celebration.

“You take four scoops of love and compassion, add a handful of hugs, and sprinkle with love and joy,” said Alfred Darling, chili chef. “The goal is to spread love and joy.”

Everyone is welcome to stop by from noon until dusk as Celebrating the Spirit of Obon continues through Sunday.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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