Dancing, food, and history.
According to Judy Van Zile in her book, “The Japanese Bon Dance in Hawaii,” the bon festival tradition is believed to have been started in Hawaii by Japanese laborers in plantation communities in the early 1900s.
“Today, Obon festivals are community events that draw hundreds of participants. The bon dance is a living tradition that continues to change, she said, and has different meanings for different people.” — Christine Yano, professor of anthropology, University of Hawaii at Manoa
So it was quite a treat for me to visit Hawaii Plantation Village in Waipahu this past weekend to experience what a plantation bon dance could have been like over a hundred years ago.
I was inspired.
Of course while today’s modern take on the traditional gathering included elements like a shaved ice truck and a local eatery selling Filipino food (plate-lunch style), the sense of community and family is still prevalent, especially during this past weekend’s event.
Lawn chairs lined the outer perimeter of the circle dance area. There was no yagura, or tower, where musicians perform; instead, there was a stage set off to the side of the dancing area. And throughout the surrounding grass lawn you will find families gathered on mats and chairs eating fresh baked goods, musubi, and other festival food.
Different bon dance groups took turns throughout the night, playing their sets of music, and anyone can jump in to dance or learn the dance by following the dancers in the innermost circle.
If you want to set up your chairs around the dance circle, I recommend getting there early. Otherwise, there is plenty of space in the surrounding lawn areas. Insect repellant is recommended.
Live video from Facebook.
It was my very first time using the “Live” video feature on Facebook and I was impressed that it worked, even out at the Plantation Village. I am including the video here: