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Maui Obon Festivals

The Japanese Buddhist tradition of Obon, or Bon, is celebrated by Missions all over Maui in the summer. While the festival in Japan lasts only 3 days, the Missions in Maui take turns hosting the festival every Saturday and most Fridays from June 1st until August 24th.

The Buddhist-Confucian custom of Obon is a time for people to honor their ancestors, by visiting with them and cleaning their graves. The tradition has lasted over 500 years but is not a time to grieve in Maui, but rather a season to celebrate ancestry, participate in the Bon Odori dance with friends and family, and enjoy Hawaiian dishes such as shave ice and chow fun.

The Missions in Maui, including the Lahaina Jodo Mission, Kahului Hongwanji Mission and the Rinzai Zen Mission in Paia, welcome people of every faith and race to join. The service and dance has become a large cultural part of Maui since Japanese plantation workers first brought the tradition to the Hawaiian islands in the 1800s.

The Bon Odori dance takes place in circles around a yagura, or wooden scaffolding, which will sometimes feature live artists. People who have never danced in the Bon Odori style before can learn quickly by following the example of those around them. Hawaii participants generally dress in bright colors when dancing to either taiko drums or prerecorded music.

During the Lahaina Obon festival, people also celebrate the Japanese tradition of Toro Nagashi, or floating lanterns. It begins with a procession around the Buddha statue on the temple grounds at the Lahaina Jodo Mission before moving to the beach for the prayers. Paper lanterns are released on the water in a beautiful ceremony in order to return the spirits to the afterlife.

The Paia Rinzai Zen Mission also has unique elements that set its service and dance apart from others on Maui. The island’s only Okinawan church features live music and traditional Okinawan cuisine, such as deep-fried donuts and pig’s feet soup.

The Obon tradition is a large part of Japanese culture and is a time to honor heritage and ancestors, but has also evolved in Maui into a popular summer activity for friends and families looking to try something new and learn more about the rich history of Hawaii and Japan.

Summer Schedule of Services and Dances:

Lahaina Shingon Mission
Early June
Service 6:30 p.m., Dance 7:30 p.m.
682 Luakini St., Lahaina

Puʻunēnē Nichiren Mission
Early June
Service 6:30 p.m., Dance 7:30 p.m.
9 Ani Street, Kahului

Wailuku Jodo Mission
Mid June
Service 6:30 p.m., Dance 7:30 p.m.
67 Central Avenue, Wailuku (Parking at the Mālama clinic)

Wailuku Shingon Mission
Mid June
Service 6:30 p.m., Dance 7:30 p.m.
1939 North Street, Wailuku

Kahului Jodo Mission
Late June
Service 6:30 p.m., Dance 7:30 p.m.
325 Lāʻau Street, Kahului

Lahaina Jodo Mission
Early July
Service 6:30 p.m., Dance 8 p.m.
12 Ala Moana Street, Lahaina

Pāiʻa Mantokuji Soto Zen Mission
Friday and Saturday, July 12 and 13
Service 6 p.m., Dance 7:30 p.m.
253 Hāna Hwy, Pāiʻa

Lānaʻi Hongwanji Mission
Friday and Saturday July 12 and 13
Service July 12, 2019 7 p.m.; dance July 13, 2019 6:30 p.m.
1364 Fraser Ave., Lānaʻi

Kahului Hongwanji Mission
Friday and Saturday, July 19 and 20
Service 6 p.m.; Dance 8 p.m.
291 S. Puʻunēnē Ave., Kahului

Makawao Hongwanji Mission
Friday and Saturday, July 26 and 27
Service 6 p.m., Dance 7 p.m.
1074 Makawao Ave., Makawao

Wailuku Hongwanji Mission
Friday and Saturday, August 2 and 3
Service 6:45 p.m., Dance 8 p.m.
1828 Vineyard St., Wailuku

Lahaina Hongwanji Mission
Friday and Saturday, August 9 and 10
Service 6 p.m., Dance 7:30 p.m.
551 Waineʻe St., Lahaina

Rinzai Zen Mission, Pāʻia
Saturday, August 17
Service 6 p.m., Dance 7 p.m.
120 Alawai Road, Pāʻia

Kula Shofukuji Mission
Saturday, August 24
Service 6:30 p.m., Dance 7:30 p.m.
113 Puanani Place, Kula

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