Iida’s is the place to go to find Obon Festival Accessories
June 17, 2014
Haka (gravesite) Chochin $3.98 each.
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The whiff of good saimin and teriyaki beef and sight of floating lanterns and festive bon dance fairs come to mind as a sign that the Japanese cultural Obon season has arrived.
Men, women and children are seen wearing light cotton kimonos, yukata or happi coats, joyfully dancing under streams of lanterns with colorful folding fans. Women and girls typically adorn their hair with flower ornaments.
Company president Robert Iida remembers the days when he was a toddler growing up enjoying this traditional Buddhist observance meant to honor the deceased and celebrate familial bonds. The occasion was personally for him more of a time for socializing, meeting friends and praying at the temple.
The Obon season, observed usually from the beginning of June until the end of August, gives people a chance to return to their original family homes to visit and clean the graves of their ancestors.
The hanging and standing lanterns with chrysanthemum flower designs are meant to be displayed at home to invite their ancestors back. When the season is over, the lanterns are supposed to be donated to the temple, but it is no longer a common practice. These days, people usually put it away and take it out until the next season. Multiple haka chochin still hang for the gravesite.
This was the local customary tradition for many years when Robert was growing up, in spite of a 5-year ban during World War
II. At the age of 15, he recalls, the Obon season resumed until the war ended in 1946.
“It was the return of good times and religious freedom after the war,” he said.
To greet departed souls back to earth, he remembers his mother preparing vegetarian food like fried tofu, miso soup and hot white rice in front of the butsudan, or Buddhist altar, as a way to honor her loved ones.
Robert said nowadays, bon dances don’t just attract only people of Japanese ancestry. The joyful, festive occasion filled with Japanese traditional folk songs and the beat of the taiko drum invites all sorts to join in on the merriment of dancing and singing. “But it is good to remember what the real meaning is,” he said.
Iida’s is located at
1202 Kona Street in a blue warehouse, on the mauka side of Kona Street and Diamond Head side of Pensacola Street. Parking available on the Diamond Head-side of warehouse. Visit the store between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and noon to
3 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 973.0320 or visit www.iidashawaii.com.