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Celebrating Obon in Midtown Ala Moana - Midtown Ala Moana

Celebrating Obon in Midtown Ala Moana

July 16th, 2019

The change in seasons may not be obvious in Hawaii but when the smell of fried andagi and the sound of taiko drums fill the Midtown Ala Moana air, we know its obon season. 


The obon festival, or bon dance as it’s casually known, is a Japanese celebration that showcases the unique culture and traditions of Japan. Bon dance festivals first began in Hawaii in the 1880s when Japanese immigrants arrived to work on the plantations. Celebrating the end of the plantation season, workers would gather to reminisce about their time in Japan and honor their ancestors.


Today bon dance festivals take place during the summer months at local Buddhist temples around the island. The festivals are hosted at Hongwanjii and Soto Mission temples across Oahu–including the Shingon Shu Hawaii Buddhist temple right in the center of Midtown Ala Moana! Just a few blocks from Ala Moana Center, the neighborhood temple’s event takes place August 9-10 from 6:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. with lots of live music, dancing, freshly pounded mochi, fried andagi, saimin, shave ice and more! The Shingon Shu Hawaii Buddhist temple is over 100 years old and is the oldest and largest esoteric buddhist temple in Honolulu.  


Obon festivals are open to the public and invite guests of all ages to gather in their best kimono or yukata, and dance the night away to popular Japanese songs and taiko drums. Festivals also offer fresh traditional Japanese foods like pounded mochi, fried andagi, takoyaki, yakisoba, shave ice, and more. A few celebrations also end with a memorizing toro nagashi, the releasing of floating lanterns in the ocean, to pay tribute to loved ones that they’ve lost. 


With bon dance festivals happening nearly every weekend throughout the summer months, it’s easy to find one to attend. Visit our events page for more details on festivals happening in Midtown Ala Moana!


Photo credit: Melvin Ah Ching