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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 30, 2010

Obon season welcomes the spirits home

Advertiser Staff

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Bon dances like this one at the Ewa Hongwanji are annual events at many Buddhist temples. The season has begun in Hawai'i.

Advertiser library photo

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Bon dance participants circle around a yagura tower at the Mo‘ili‘ili Community Center. The Japanese festival is held yearly to honor the dead.

Advertiser library photo

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If it's June in Hawai'i — June, July or August, in fact — it's time for obon, the season of remembrance of the dead, celebrated in the Buddhist community at temples, shrines and by organizations and families with services and festivals.

It is believed that each year during obon, the ancestors' spirits return to this world to visit.

In a modern vein, this custom has evolved into a family reunion during which people return to ancestral family places, clean ancestors' graves and visit household altars.

Services are held at temples, as well as at homes, for ancestors, relatives and friends who have died.

To properly guide the spirits of ancestors on the day, it is customary to light lanterns at houses and temple grounds for bon odori (bon dances). Some such lanterns were very elaborate, specially made for the occasion. (At the end of the season, little candle-lit boats, holding prayers or inscribed names, are sometimes used to guide the spirits of the departed back to the other world.)

The most important feature of the service is the offering of food. The ancestors are offered rice, vegetables, fruits, cakes, sweets and flowers. Special foods are prepared for invited guests and friends.

Also called the Feast of Lanterns, it has been celebrated in Japan for hundreds of years and traditionally includes folk dances that are based on cultural traditions.

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