It’s Obon Season in Hawaii

August 7, 2007 by Kailani  
Filed under hawaii, my family

This past weekend, we took the girls to their very first Obon Dance.

In Hawaii, the Summer months are known for their annual Obon Dance Festivals held every weekend at various Buddist Temples around the islands. This is a time for families to don their hapi coats, pound the taiko drums, and circle the yagura towers in honor of their ancestors.

It all begins in June with the annual lantern floating ceremony and continues for nine weekends of Obon Dancing.

Obon literally means “lantern festival” and the colorful hanging lights cast a glow over dancers at each location. The tradition is to light the way for the spirits of ancestors who are greeted with offerings of flowers, food and incense in temple rituals and on family altars.

From what I understand, the concept of dancing for the dead is based on a story about a disciple of the Buddha named Mokuren. The monk’s vision of his dead mother in the realm of hungry ghosts, starving because of her greed while alive, led him to ask Shakyamuni Buddha how he could relieve her suffering. He was told to offer food to monks returning from a retreat. His mother’s spirit was freed by his good deed, which led Mokuren to dance with joy.

Although based on a Japanese religious belief, Bon Dances have become a favorite event celebrated in the islands by all different ethnic cultures and religious backgrounds. It’s a great way for families to come together and share an evening of fun, food and dancing.

Girlie Girl especially liked the Taiko Drum performance since her Taiko classes resume in September. For those who don’t know what Taiko is, here is a short video from the Bon Dance.

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About the author:
Kailani is the owner and founder of An Island Life. You'll find her sharing her daily life as a mother to 3 wonderful daughters, working as a flight attendant, and living a blessed life in Hawaii. She is also the founder of the group review site - Family Review Network. Follow along on her adventure of a lifetime this Winter as a member of the Vaseline Dry Skin Patrol!
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34 Responses to “It’s Obon Season in Hawaii”
  1. Abhijeet says:

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  2. Grace says:

    Yes, it is Obon season in Japan too!! I miss Obon dancing and my yukatas at home!

    Companies in Japan will have their obon break from Friday this week until the 16th so I will be bored in the office again.

  3. La Bellina mammina says:

    oh – how adorable are they!!! and that costume!
    We will be having the lantern festival here soon too to coincide with the Ghost Festival!

  4. Leisa says:

    What a wonderful festival! I’d love to holiday in Hawaii one day – so when we do, and if its Summer I’ll keep an eye out for the Obon Dance Festivals.

  5. amy says:

    THanks for showing us these pics educating us on this beautiful tradition

  6. tracey says:

    I love local festivals and traditions. It is so cool that the girls get to participate in them! And they look so cute!

  7. rach says:

    That’s a lovely festival. I love the beautiful display of lanterns. It’s an amazing sight.

  8. Gloria says:

    They look very cute in their kimono!

  9. Renee says:

    The girls look adorable! Sounds like a very cool festival.

    They had an Asian culture fair at our town’s art center and the Taiko drumers played for us. It was a bit loud for DD (that room is too small) but we enjoyed it very much.

    BTW: there’s this one family at DD’s gymnastics class with a little girl who looks just like BB…just a cutie! This baby is usually munching on something and has it all over herself, but awefully cute. Her big sister is in the gym with DD and is doing so well they want to put her on the competitive team…at age 5!

  10. Carey says:

    Your girls are adorable. Looks like a fun time, the lanterns are so pretty. The drums sound nice too, is you daughter learning to play them?

  11. summershine says:

    The girls look so cute!
    I love heritage festivals. I find it so interesting to learn about traditions in other cultures. I would love to attend a Taiko Drum performance. It looks so fun!

  12. wendy says:

    Adorable! Looks like fun. The lanterns are beautiful!

  13. JHS says:

    They are SO adorable and the video reminded me of why I loved Hawaii. Maybe I need to upload some of my video of the Polynesian Cultural Center? :-)

  14. Jill says:

    I love the beauty of these Asian festivals. We have a great Chinatown here in Chicago and i’m looking forward to introducing the lantern festival, lion dances and dragon parades to The Boy when he gets a little older.

  15. Melissa says:

    What a fantastic tradition! The girls look so cute :)

  16. The Foo says:

    The girls are so cute in their costumes. I’ve been to many of those festivals before when I was younger. Sounds like you all had a fun time.

  17. Angela says:

    GG and BB look precious! (Did you make their kimonos?) Thanks so much for sharing your traditions–I always get an education when I visit your site!

  18. Holly Schwendiman says:

    What fun! I love learning and seeing other cultures and areas through real life people! :) Your girls are so darn adorable!


  19. Melli says:

    What a NEAT and fun festival! So cool that your family gets to take part in it! (and wear the PRETTY robes!) :) I bet the girls had a ball!

  20. Desert Songbird says:

    The girls look adorable! I hope the girls had a great time.

  21. Dana says:

    What a beautiful tradition and the girls are adorable too. Love those colorful outfits!!

  22. @nnaliza says:

    wow that looks like fun and the girls are soo adorable!

  23. TopChamp says:

    Hello – I’m still having internet connection problems (2 weeks now) so photos and vids don’t come up much.

    Wanted to stop by to say hello. The festival sounds amazing – I will come back when I get better internet again to see properly as the drumming particularly interests me.

    Nice to see you anyway (albeit briefly with big gaps wherever pictures are etc)!

  24. donetta says:

    Wow how wonderful a glimpse into the wonderful rich cultures here. The ceremony is a very ancient type belief system. If shows to bring a great community of families together.
    I love the center of the unity in the drums. Very universal are the drums. I have always found it so amazing how drumming is a part of every continent.Thank you for the privilege of seeing the event.

  25. BeachMama says:

    They both look so adorable. Sounds like a fun thing to do with the kids and so traditional.

  26. tiggerprr says:

    I miss Japan so much! All of the festivals, the shrines, the taiko drums! How lucky you are to be able to experience all that and still live in the US. :)

  27. tiggerprr says:

    Oh, and you’re tagged! :P

  28. Pua says:

    found your very well done blog through the current city blog carninal by homespunhonolulu.

    waimea on the big island celebrates a great japanese tradition in february ‘the cherry blossom festival’! a big crowd of visitors and residents joins for japanese food and traditions with dances and more!

    aloha from the big island, pua

  29. Gayla McCord says:

    O My Gosh they are just too cute!

    Makes me want a little girl. Guess the big guy knew what he was doing giving me boys though *sighs*

  30. Jenny says:

    Your babies are beautiful!

  31. Los Angeles SEO says:

    This looks really cool, I can’t wait to go to Hawaii! I haven’t been there yet, but it looks so beautiful and the culture seems so cool. Maybe soon I will get out there and explore the islands.


See what others are saying about this post...
  1. Homespun Honolulu » Carnival of Cities Gallops Around the Globe says:

    [...] and our first stop will be on the island of Maui. Kailani at An Island Life lets us know that It’s Obon Season in Hawaii. Actually, it’s Kailani’s two darling daughters who show us their first bon dance, [...]

  2. Hawaii Vacation News Roundup for August 14th says:

    [...] Kailani at An Island Life has written a very nice article about Obon Season in Hawaii.  [...]

  3. The San Diego Beat » Homespun Hawaii Host to Global Carnival says:

    [...] Visually Pleasing Blog goes to Kailani at An Island Life , whose entry It’s Obon Season in Hawaii provides a wonderful description of the island traditions, as well as a terrific video to [...]

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