Maui Obon

Maui A to Z: Obon

Maui Obon Bon Dance

Maui has a strong Japanese influence, so it is no surprise that we are given multiple opportunities to observe Obon on our island.  Obon is a Japanese custom to honor relatives that have passed away. IMG_2533

Bon odori (dances) are performed during the events and lanterns are lit to celebrate the lives and sacrifices of departed relatives.  It’s a beautiful way to remember loved ones that are not with us any longer.

Obon Dance

Yukata, light kimonos, or happi coats are often worn by participants.  During some of the dances you will be handed a small towel called a tenugui to aid in the moves.

–        Obon tenugui sent by a friend on Oahu        –

Friends have told me they would collect these towels and have someone sew a happi coat for future obon events.

Happi Coat at Obon

We began attending obon last summer because so many of our favorite people are involved in one way or another.  We weren’t sure what to expect, but we quickly figured out that many others didn’t know the dance moves perfectly either, and all were welcome.
Maui Taiko

It was also a treat to watch our friends perform with Maui Taiko.  The drumming hits you in the chest and you can’t help but start dancing!
The Lantern Ceremony, only performed at the Lahaina Mission, was moving, and one of my favorite nights of 2015.  The beauty of watching everyone release their loved one, symbolized with a lantern floating away on the ocean, was beautiful and touching.  I’m looking forward to this year’s obon already.  If you’re on island, come check out one in your area
Lantern for Obon Obon Schedule

Before attending the first dance, our friends gave us a video they helped to produce called

Great Grandfather’s Drum“.

Copies can be purchased here.  It was very helpful in understanding the history of Japanese culture on Maui spanning the past 200 years.



6 thoughts on “Maui A to Z: Obon

  1. This sounds like a lovely celebration of life.
    I’ve observed Taiko drumming, as the bride in the wedding that drew us to Moab Utah is part of a Taiko Dan there. Very intense and entertaining!

  2. How can I light a lantern for my wife and unborn daughter who recently passed away? Do they charge a fee to have a lantern lit for a departed loved one?

    1. Hi Jim, I asked around. Contact Lahaina Jodo Mission. They may still have lanterns available for purchase. I’m sorry for your loss. This would be a beautiful way to remember your wife and daughter. Aloha.

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