Reflections of Hawaii
Obons by Sydney Shiroyama
“Obon-hopping” is one of my favorite summer activities. My family and temple friends like to travel up and down the SF Bay area, attending different Obons. When the Youth Minister’s Assistants planned a religious retreat to Hawaii, we were excited to continue “Obon-hopping” in a different state, attending two Obons on the island of Oahu: Pearl City Temple and Mililani.
Being at the Hawaiian Obons, we noticed some differences from our own festivals. For one thing, there were no games, bingo, demonstrations, etc; only dancing, food, and crafts. At Mililani Obon, the dancing directly followed a beautiful lantern ceremony, and when the dancing started, it kept going and going and going. Their dances were extremely high energy, especially when the Okinawan drummers came out and started yelling and dancing. It was very exciting to see such spirit added into the mix of traditional Japanese dancing. I also noticed there were far fewer people dressed up in Japanese kimonos or yukatas, but who could blame them for being comfortable when you’re dancing for 3 ½ hours! It was amazing to hear the variety of songs and to see the number of dances that people actually knew. While we struggled to follow along, the locals danced like they had practiced many times before.
We left early because we were exhausted after 3 ½ hours of dancing, and we had to get up the next day before dawn for a sunrise service. But, as we drove off, the Obon was still very much alive. We could still hear the sweet sounds of the Hawaiian Obon — the yelling, dancing, singing, and laughing — in our ears as we drifted off to sleep on the way back to our hotel.
Sunset/Sunrise services by Sydney Shiroyama
There’s something about Hawaii that makes the sunsets more beautiful than anywhere else on the world. It’s not the sun – it’s the same sun no matter where you are. Maybe it’s the surroundings or the fluffy clouds above that are always so perfect. Or maybe it’s just the fact that you are on a beautiful island and you know that you are having the time of your life with your friends. What made it more beautiful to me was the fact that, while watching the sun drift down beyond the horizon, we were enjoying the Dharma at the same time. Sunrise and sunset services were regular activities on our Youth Minister Assistant trip to Hawaii, and, for me personally, they were some of the most memorable moments from the retreat. While I was chanting or listening to the Dharma messages from the fellow YMAs, I couldn’t help but think that nothing could be better than that moment: listening to my friends talk about the Dharma and watching the beautiful sunset on the ocean. In those moments, my thoughts were not preoccupied with school or worries about the future. In that moment, it occurred to me that we would never have a sunset like that again, with the same Dharma talk and the same people. Sunrise and sunset services were some of my fondest experiences from the trip because it was so peaceful, the weather was perfect, and we could experience the Dharma with nature’s most beautiful things happening all around us.