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Buddhist Temple in Hawai‘i Celebrates 125 Years of Service


Kona Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, which follows the Japanese Pure Land tradition, celebrated 125 years of service this weekend with dance performances, a craft fair, a parade, a Buddhist services, rites, and rituals.

The temple was established as Kona Hongwanji Mission in 1897 to serve the growing community of Japanese immigrants on Hawai‘i’s big island. Today, the temple serves a thriving community including those of Japanese and non-Japanese ancestry. Several affiliated groups use the temple, including the Buddhist Woman’s Association, a men’s group, a Dharma school, a boy scout troop, a judo club, and more.

The mission began to serve Shin Buddhists in the area with simple services. Within two years it was moved to the nearby area of Kainaliu. In 1906, it moved again to its current location in Kealakekua. The area became known for its coffee plantations, and today Kona coffee is known around the world.

The mission is now home to the temple, a parsonage, a social hall, a kitchen, and a preschool.

This undated image shows the temple during a celebration. From
A more recent image of the temple. From

Celebrations kicked off on 15 October with a Bon Dance—a traditional Japanese celebration of ancestors—the first time the temple has held the dance since 2019. The dance was accompanied by Taiko drummers and traditional paper lanterns. As part of the dance, many participants wore traditional outfits as they followed hand movements and steps meant to accompany each song.  Hundreds of onlookers turned out to celebrate.

Typically, Bon (or Obon) is celebrated in the summer, in either July or August. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic led temples across the island to maintain a pause on events until only recently. Members of Kona Hongwanji decided to incorporate the practice into the anniversary celebrations.


“As we celebrate 125 years of serving the community, Kona Hongwanji Buddhist Temple remains dedicated to sharing the teachings of the Neumbutsu so that we can realize a society in which everyone is able to live a life in harmony, peace, and gratitude,” said the mission’s bishop, Eric Matsumoto. (Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

On 16 October, the celebrations continued with a Chigo parade, a festivity featuring children dressed in traditional kimonos and other adornments to represent heavenly beings. After the parade, a service was held, officiated by bishop Matsumoto. Later, a lunch was offered and then those wishing to take part were given Buddhist names. For their last activity, members of the temple began filling a time capsule, scheduled to be opened in 50 years.

“Looking 125 years into the future, what will be said about Kona Hongwanji?,” asked Kyodan president Linda Nagai. “I believe with our dedicated sangha members and Rev. Blaine Higa leading the next generation, the story of our vibrant Dharma-centered community will continue to be written for a new era.” (Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

Following the activities, Kona Hongwanji posted on its Facebook page: “We had a wonderful weekend of events celebrating our 125th Anniversary!” The post continues: “A big mahalo to everyone who came out to celebrate with us. We even made the front page of the West Hawaii Today! What a joyous and memorable series of events for our sangha and the entire community! We are profoundly grateful. Namo Amida Butsu!” (Facebook)

Read more

Kona Hongwanji Buddhist Temple marks 125 years with Bon Dance (Hawaii Tribune-Herald)
Kona Hongwanji Buddhist Temple celebrating 125 years (West Hawaii Today)
Kona Hongwanji (Facebook)

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