Historic Buddhist temple reopens in Hana for bon dance

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The Maui News

Sept. 9, 2023

A historic Buddhist temple in Hana is reopening 83 years after it was first built, marking the occasion with a bon dance on Saturday.

The Hana Gakuen Hongwanji Temple was built in 1940 by Japanese Buddhist immigrants on the Hana coast, according to Joe Brower, vice president of the Hana Buddhist Temple Preservation Association. After the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the original congregants were forced to disband and disperse, and the temple was boarded up and the reverend was interned, according to the association. When the reverend returned in 1946, the Kaeleku Sugar Co., which employed most of the Japanese in the area, had closed and only a fraction of the original families remained in Hana.

The temple never fully recovered and fell into disrepair. But in 2014, a small group of concerned citizens stepped in to save the building, eventually completing a renovation that included all new structural elements as well as fully restored carved ornamental elements, Brower said.

“We are all grieving for those who perished and for the survivors of the maelstrom of fires that devastated our island,” Brower said. “The people of Maui are suffering from tremendous psychological, spiritual and emotional trauma.”

However, Brower added, “it is our sincere hope that our island community may see this event as a bright light in a dark time. If this rebirth could somehow be a guiding beacon of positivity and renaissance then our mission will be realized.”

Hilo Otakagi helps restore one of the temple’s carved elements. — Photo courtesy Hana Buddhist Temple Preservation Association

The association will present its fifth Hana bon dance on Saturday with a blessing at 4:30 p.m., food starting at 5 p.m. and a Maui Taiko performance starting at 6 p.m. This will be the final bon dance of the season on Maui.

For more information, email hanabuddhisttemple@gmail.com.