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Summer bon dance season in Hawaii 2014. Here's a complete schedule.

Photo: Manoa Koganji Temple, Oahu

Bon dance season in Hawaii begins this month.

If you’re visiting the Islands this summer—anytime between now and August—and have never experienced the annual Japanese Buddhist tradition in person, we suggest you put an evening aside, and attend a local bon dance. We’ve got a complete 2014 schedule of Hawaii bon dances below. Here’s why you’ll want to go:

The custom of o-bon—most in Hawaii shorten the word to bon—honors the spirits of family members that have passed away. You’ll find o-bon festivals just about every weekend evening at Hawaii hongwanji missions and temples from June through August. According to tradition, it is believed the summer months are when ancestral spirits return to visit family and friends.

In Japan, the tradition of summer o-bon festivals dates back more than 500 years. Here in the Islands, however, the festivals serve as both a ceremony of spiritual remembrance and a celebration of cultural heritage and community. Everyone is welcome at an o-bon festival, regardless of religious background or ethnicity. As such, each temple’s festival—and there are dozens all summer—is often very well-attended.

O-bon festivals are perhaps best known for the dances that participants engage in, known as bon-odori. The dance differs slightly depending on the Japanese prefecture of its origin, but generally involves people circling around a high wooden scaffold called a yagura.

The festivals are also known for their array of Japanese foods for sale—andagi (sweet fried dough), grilled teri-beef and –chicken skewers, musubi (rice balls wrapped in dried seaweed), stir-fry noodles—meant to nourish dancers and raise money for the host hongwanji. Bring an appetite. You’ll want to try all of it.

Also make sure you bring a camera to capture it all.

Click on to the next page for a complete list of 2014 Hawaii o-bon festivals and bon dances.

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Check out these related HawaiiMagazine.com posts:
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Hawaii’s summer bon dance season is under way. Here’s where to go for evening festivals.

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