August 3-4, 2018
The Soto Zen Bon celebration takes place on the spacious grounds of the Soto Zen Temple, located on the sunny, westside of the island in Hanapepe, "Kauai's Biggest, Little Town."
The festival brings out the best of an old tradition. For over five generations, the Japanese-American folk culture and its Buddhist religious traditions have evolved in Hawaii. The festival includes traditional Japanese folk dancing around a yagura (raised platform) with distinctive music and live performances of singing and taiko (drums). Dancers dress in traditional kimonos or the less formal happi coats. Everyone is welcomed to join the circle of dancers. An "old-style" feel has been "religiously" preserved, yet there is a very relaxed, island-style character to this celebration.
The festival honors and remembers ancestors whose spirits return, guided by colorful chochins (lanterns) and join in the dancing as well. Over 400 colorful lanterns decorate the temple grounds. Food is also an integral part of the cultural experience, including: flying saucers - a festival favorite, similar to a pita pocket Sloppy Joe sandwich grilled and cooked into a shape with a pie iron; pronto pup - a hot dog dipped in a tasty pancake-like batter and deep fried; andagi - a sweet, deep fried buns of dough, like doughnuts. The more traditional fare includes mochi, yakitori (chicken) and teriyaki beef, and saimin.
Bon is the time of the year when people remember and honor their ancestors, reassert family ties and return to their hometowns. It's a joyous occasion when friends and families get together. This is the spirit of Bon and it carries a universal theme.
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