COVID-19 and Its Effect on the 2020 Festival

Although trying out various types of street food and experiencing the Bon dance top the list as the most exciting activities during the Mōʻiliʻili Summer Fest, shopping is also one of the fun activities you can do. There are several retail stores and boutiques where one can find unique items. Some of these stores include Eden in Love, Indigo Elixirs, Hiilani Hawaii, Himalayan Treasure, Jana Lam, Chordinauts (kendamas), Chordinauts (kendamas), Love at Dawn Hawaii, Kira Hawaii, LMS Boutique, Island Style Collection, Nature Girl, San Lorenzo Bikinis, Sanook Hawaii, and The Cut Collective.

Tips on finding your way around the festival

Street parking is a popular parking option for people attending the festival, but parking slots get filled up rather quickly. An alternative parking option is the Parking structure on Manoa’s Lower Campus Road at the University of Hawaii. The structure is located at 1323 Lower Campus Road and can be accessed using Dole Street. You can get a free parking display by notifying the gate attendants that you are attending the Mōʻiliʻili Summer Fest.

There are different options for accessing the festival from the University of Hawaii’s parking structure; you can take a 10-minute walk down University Avenue, take a shuttle near the parking structure that operates between 4:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. An important thing to note is that the last shuttle to the festival departs at 9:30 p.m., and the last shuttle from the festival to the parking structure departs at 10:15 p.m.

If you prefer not to drive, you can take a bus using route 1, 1L, and 4 or your selection of the ride-hailing app. A few Biki stops are available nearby.

2020 Mōʻiliʻili Summer Fest canceled due to COVID-19

The annual Mōʻiliʻili Summer Fest, which was initially scheduled to happen on 3rd July 2020, was canceled as a safety measure against the COVID19 pandemic. The event was supposed to be hosted at 1110 University Avenue, the former varsity theatre parking and Coyne street. Organizers of the annual event, which highlights the history, cultural diversity, and commerce of Mōʻiliʻili are planning to host the Mōʻiliʻili Summer Fest again in 2021. The event partners including the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, Kamehameha Schools, the Mōʻiliʻili Hongwanji Mission, the Old Town Mōʻiliʻili Business Association, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the Mōʻiliʻili Community Center, have started making preparations to restart the festival next year. The Mōʻiliʻili Hongwanji Mission has also put off its famous Bon dance ceremony, which is usually hosted at the same time as the Mōʻiliʻili Summer Fest. The Kuai Buddhist Council has also canceled its Bon season, which takes place from mid-July to August. The Mōʻiliʻili Comunity Center has organized for volunteer instructors to offer virtual Bon dance classes to keep seniors engaged.

What to Do at the Mōʻiliʻili Summer Fest

There are many booths with kids’ activities available during the Mōʻiliʻili Summer Fest. The Japanese cultural center of Hawaii operates a booth that has various games for kids. One of the most popular games here is the Kingyo Sukui, where one attempts to pick up a goldfish using a rice paper net before it dissolves.

Another fun activity for kids is decorating lanterns and Uchiwa paper fans, which they can later take home as souvenirs. They can also write a wish on a tanzaku (a piece of paper), and attach it to a Tanabata-festival bamboo tree.

At the Cherry blossom Festival booth, children can learn origami folding, get souvenir books, and get acquainted with the new Cherry Blossom Queen and her court.

The Hawaiian Humane Society operates a booth where you can learn about animal rescues and buy pet supplies. You can also Visit the Mō’ili’ili Community Center to view historic photos of the region.

Places to eat and find drinks

Although the theme of the event is predominantly Japanese, you can find more than just traditional Japanese cuisine. With more than 20 food vendors, the options of what to indulge one’s taste are virtually endless. Some of the popular vendors at the Mōʻiliʻili Summer Fest include Bao Tao’n, Okinawan, Olay’s Thai Food, Boba Bros, The Pig & the Lady, Waiāmanalo Country Farms, Aloha & Mabuhay, Mō’ili’ili Hongwanji Mission, Otsuji Farms, Kamoa’s Food Truck and many more. At some vendors, you can find delicacies that you do not often encounter in your day-to-day life, such as andagi-corndogs.

Other vendors available include Bonfire Pizza, Beyond Burgers, Buenos Antojitos, Cold Fyyre, Bobalicious, Cake Works, Firehouse, Made in Hawaii, Hawaiian Waffledog Co., Honolulu Gourmet Foods, Il Gelato, Aloha Pops, Karai Crab, Holoholo Bar and Grill, Onda Pasta, Miso & Ale, Pacifikool, Soul Patrol, Arrowhead CU, Special Gifts by Clarice, Whyz Wagon, Spun, Simply Ono, Hawaii Doggie Bakery, and Wow Wow Lemonade.

Welcome to Mōʻiliʻili Summer Fest

The Mōʻiliʻili Summer Fest is an annual festival hosted in Hawaii. It is held during the Bon season and is a fundamental aspect of modern-day culture and life in Hawaii. The Mōʻiliʻili Summer Fest started as a family and friends’ dining, cultural, and shopping experience to commemorate the origins and diversity of the Mōʻiliʻili society. Celebrating Japanese and Hawaiian roots of one of the oldest neighborhoods in Hawaii, the Mōʻiliʻili Summer Fest is home to the largest Bon dance in Honolulu.

The event provides the opportunity to learn more about the Tanabata holiday on the 7th day of the 7th month, decorate a round Japanese fan called Uchiwa for using during the night, write a wish on a paper and suspend it on a bamboo tree from the Japanese Cultural Center. The Mōʻiliʻili Community Center also exhibits historical pictures of Mōʻiliʻili’s Hawaiian, Japanese-American, and Hawaiian-Chinese inhabitants.

The Bon Dance

The Bon dance, also known as Bon Odori, is a Japanese style of folk dance performed during the Obon season. The Bon dance tradition has a history of almost six hundred years and is said to have begun towards the end of the Muromachi era as a type of public entertainment. Bon Odori starts with the tale of a disciple of the Budha called Maha Maudgalyayana (Mokuren), who used his superhuman abilities to look upon his dead mother only to discover that she had plunged into the world of Hungry Ghosts and was in a lot of pain. Much disturbed, he sought the Buddha to find out how he could free his mother from this world. Buddha directed him to make sacrifices to the several Buddhist monks who had just finished a summer vacation on the 15th day of the 7th month. Maha Maudgalyayana followed the Buddha’s instructions and was successful in freeing his mother. He also started to understand the true essence of the selfless sacrifices his mother had made for him throughout his life. His mother’s release from suffering and the kindness she had shown him throughout his life made him so happy that he started to dance with joy. It is from Mokuren’s dance that the name Bon dance is derived. In essence, the Bon Odori is a dance to remember and appreciate one’s ancestors and the sacrifices they made. Over the years, the original spiritual purpose has somewhat faded, and the dance is presently associated with summer.

Traditionally a Nenbutsu folk dance to embrace the spirit of the dead, the music and technique employed now differ in many aspects across regions. The music can be songs related to the spiritual communication of Obon, or local Minyo folk songs. As a result, the Bon dance will appear different depending on the region it is being performed. In a typical Bon dance, people line up in a circle around a large wooden scaffold known as a yagura. The yagura also acts as the bandstand for the singers of the performance. Some dances move clockwise, while others move counter-clockwise around the yagura. In some dances, people reverse when dancing, but most dances do not incorporate this aspect. Sometimes people move forward and backward while facing the yagura. In other dances such as the Tokushima Awa Odori and Kagoshima Ohara dance, the dancers move in a straight line in the streets of the town. Other ways in which the Bon dance can vary involves the incorporation of different types of fans, towels, and wooden clappers during the dance. The music played during the dance is not restricted to Minyo and Obon songs, children tunes tailored to the beat of the ondo, and modern enka hits are sometimes incorporated into the dance.

The dance spread to Hawaii through plantation workers who had immigrated from Japan. Presently the dance is held at Buddhist missions, Shintoist missions, and in shopping centers in Hawaii. In some Buddhist missions, the family members of the deceased burn incense as a way of remembrance before taking part in the Bon dance. Other than that, the festival is non-religious. The Participants, mostly of Japanese descent and people from different races, dance around the yagura in a circle. Recordings are played on the yagura, and the taiko group plays drums to accompany the songs. The songs performed vary among the regions and may include both Japanese traditional Bon Odori tunes as well as modern songs.