Honokaa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple community memorial service and bon dance is July 19

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An unidentified person lights incense during the memorial service in Honokaa. (COURTESY PHOTO)
Visitors enjoy the Honokaa Hongwanji bon dance in an undated photo. (COURTESY PHOTO)

The Honokaa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple invites the community to join its 111th Annual Memorial Service on July 19, at 6 p.m. in the social hall, followed by bon dance at 7 p.m.

Anyone of any faith is encouraged to remember and honor loved ones who have passed away in the last 12 months.

A simple and healing ceremony, open to all, the service not only pays tribute to the departed, but expresses gratitude to them and all ancestors in an uplifting way, often referred to as a “gathering of joy.”

During the memorial service, names of those who died in the preceding year are read aloud, as families and friends step forward to place incense as a gesture of appreciation for their life.

As the service concludes, everyone is welcome to stay and join in the dancing, music, food and celebration. A traditional Buddhist style of folk dancing, bon odori, or bon dance, is accompanied by lively taiko drums and music, led by dance groups in colorful happi coats to represent different temples. Young and old participate in the bon dancing, whether they are beginners or lifelong bon dance came to Hawaii in the late 19th laborers.

Services were first held in temporary temple sites or private homes, until 1905 when the Hamakua Hongwanji temple building was dedicated to serve Kukaiau, Paauilo, Honokaa and surrounding communities. In 1939, the Hongwanji members, purchased the temple grounds from the owner, a Mr. Sheaffer of Honoka`a Sugar Co. At the time, Rev. Giko Tsuge was resident minister, a post he held for 25 years, bridging time spent in an internment camp during World War II.

According to the Local Legacies Project of the Library of Congress, “Although the dance nearly died out with the onslaught of anti-Japanese fervor that swept Hawaii during the ’40s, a post WW II event spurred its revival in 1951 when four Japanese-American veterans’ groups sponsored a bon dance to honor the war dead from Hawaii.”

Today’s bon dance is an energetic celebration, enjoyed by families who often plan a reunion or special visit to remember loved ones together.

For the memorial service on July 19, names may be submitted in advance to Reverend Shingo Furusawa at 775-7232, or 808-987-4928 (voice or text) or shingofurusawa@gmail.com. During the memorial service, when the person’s name is called, anyone may step forward with friends and family to offer a small amount of incense, which is provided with aloha. Participants do not have to be a temple member or a Buddhist to participate, and even without advance arrangements, anyone can honor loved ones by submitting a name just prior to the beginning of the ceremony. Admission is free, and all are welcome.