By Léo Azambuja
Hanapepe was glowing brighter during the Kaua‘i Soto Zen bon dance on the evenings of July 17 and 18. Hundreds attended what is considered the largest of all nine bon dances on Kaua‘i, and likely the largest in the state, according to Gerald Hirata, the temple’s president.
This year, their bon dance showcased hole hole bushi songs, sang by Japanese women, mostly picture brides, who emigrated to Hawai‘i in search of paradise in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Rather than a tropical dream, those women found never-ending hard work in the cane fields.
Some of the original hole hole bushi songs were in display during the event, showing how those issei women dealt with their harsh reality. There were elements of sadness, irreverence, feelings of betrayal, deception and even sexual content.