Last night the gang got together under the name, “The Ryukyu Bon Dance Group” to lead the Okinawan portion of the program at the Mililani Hongwanji Bon Dance.
The Mililani Bon Dance is a big social event for the community, drawing large numbers and attracting a very young crowd. Cliques of high school students gather and enjoy participating, adding their own flavor to the traditional dances. For example, the “Fukushima Ondo”, a simple freestyle dance based on 5 basic movements has evolved into an active version requiring fancy footwork, skipping, jumping, and a good cardio workout. You’ll usually find the kids dominating the inner circle around the yagura dancing in this fashion. The older, less energetic dancers (like me) can be found on the outer edge, dancing the traditional way with a lot less vigor than the young’uns.
Our group has been together since 2001. I use the word “group” loosely, since we’re not a group in the formal sense. We’re basically just a bunch of friends who get together every summer to do 2 bon dances: Mililani Hongwanji and Rissho Kosei Kai Hawaii Kyokai. Our common bond is the Okinawan performing arts. All of the members, musicians and dancers, are seasoned performers. I am the most “green” of them all, most of them pursuing the arts on an ongoing basis while I am currently on a dancing hiatus until I can be unfettered from school. No strangers to the stage, we tend to be less inhibited. Entertaining comments from the mic and animated heishi serve to liven up the crowd.
The dances were created by our talented leaders and choreographers, Allison Yanagi and Keith Shimabukuro (the “Bon Dance Man”). One of the favorites being “Ashimiji Bushi,” a song about toiling in the fields with motions depicting the use of a hoe, shovel, and sickle. Spirited shouts from the dancers, started from the bon dance leaders’ prompts have since become tradition and you will hear “spread the seeds!”, “hoe!”, “shovel!”, “sickle!” emanating from the crowd.
Bon dances are a fun way of staying plugged in to my culture. Hanging out with the talented folks in the Ryukyu Bon Dance Group always make me feel closer to my roots and remind me that I do need to return to my Okinawan dance classes one day very soon.
Memories are made of this:
This was Rebecca’s first time at the Mililani Bon Dance. I was glad to see that she wasn’t afraid to get out into the bon dance circle. Kamu, on the other hand, was laid up with a sore toe (ouch!) so he didn’t grace the floor with his kung fu Fukushima.
Norman, our talented jikata leader, and Christina, his lovely girlfriend.
My Daddy and my “calabash” sis
One of these days, we girls need to go to the beach again!
Keith’s new nickname this year is “The Bon Dance Man.” While he was volunteering at an event, a stranger came up to him and said, “hey! You’re the Bon Dance man!” Ever since Keith told us that story, he’s been known as “The Bon Dance Man.” It only seems fitting, don’t you think?
Richie and Scotty in matching basa kimonos, the uniform of choice for our jikata. Real Basa material is woven using banana fibers. It’s a cool, lightweight fabric, albeit very coarse. Traditionally, this material was worn by the common folk in Okinawa. These days, obtaining a real basa kimono will cost you a small fortune as there aren’t many artisans around who can produce the material.
You can obtain a towel at most bon dances for a small donation to the church. Normally, the towels are imprinted with the temple’s name in red and blue ink. Although I usually never buy one for myself, someone usually is nice enough to buy one for me. They come in very handy in the event of a summer drizzle to keep your hair from getting wet.
Everyone got a kick out of Keith’s fake top knot. Made of rubber, it looked pretty convincing. I wonder how many people thought Akebono was in our midst?
Thanks for the great memories, friends! I can’t wait until next year!
Who is Champuru?Aloha, I'm Donna, known everywhere on the Internet as "Champuru." I was born and raised in Hawaii. I'm a Christian. I'm married to my best friend of 18 years, we struggled with infertility and successfully conceived via IVF (and by the grace of God!) in 2008. I resigned from my coveted "secure" government job to be a work-at-home mom to my 3-year-old daughter. Using my degree in Information Technology and the skills obtained in the marketplace, I started my own business. Now, I work from home, taking clients on a part-time basis, working in my PJ's while the little one sleeps. Life isn't always easy, but it's all good.