Things to do in Kauai include the opportunity to see Japanese culture. The Obon festival season started in earnest with the first festival on June 3rd at the Waimea Higashi Hongwanji and will be held at various temples around the Island. Based upon the solar calendar it was held June 10th at the Hanapepe Hongwanji and will continue on Kauai until August. This ancient Buddhist practice was brought to Hawaii with the first Japanese immigrants that came here in 1882 to work the sugar plantations that were expanding to meet the U.S. demand for sugar. Sugar companies did not discourage the immigrants from practicing religion and since their arrival the patrons of the local temples celebrate the return to earth of departed ancestors each year.
This is not a somber event. The festival is marked with bright pink lanterns hanging and the hypnotic pounding of taiko, or drums that awaken and welcome ancestors back to this world. The taiko yaku, or drummers set a lively pace similar to a marching tempo with a six pace beat, the ensemble of 15 drummers energizes the participants with a beat that was originally designed to prepare troops for battle.
Tonight however, instead of motivating war weary troops, it was effective in rousing the crowd to begin the bon odori , or dance. All are welcome to participate, and people do. We were entertained by colorfully dressed men and women in traditional dress parading three abreast around the yagura, or central scaffold. First clockwise and then reversing with arms outstretched and moving gracefully as if parrying blows from a martial artist. Locals and visitors caught up in the hypnotic pace slide in to this eastern style line dance and are instantly in sync.
The festival offers culinary treats from local Japanese delicacies like Kuri, a pastry that is so light it almost floats away, and to challenge your senses further, are stuffed with sweet lima bean. Manju, a fried confection consisting of rice flour, buckwheat, and filled with azuki, or red bean paste. It’s lighter than a doughnut, softer, and less sweet. Originally hailing from China, the Japanese have made it their own. Yakitori, or grilled chicken on a skewer basted in shoyu, or soy sauce and sugar were delicious. Try the maki- sushi, crunchy cucumber with tuna and rice sprinkled with vinegar all rolled into nori, seaweed.
Kauai offers many activities for the visitor, from heart pounding sensory overload of a zip line tour to the more esoteric, National Geographic like tours of endangered species in Kokee State Park. Discover Kauai at your own pace. Check out our Activities page or have a glance at the bulletin boards located outside the many local stores to find the rich cultural events that make this island special.
We would love of some great activity you discovered on your trip to Kauai.