On Saturday, May 25th, the Maui Matsuri took place on the UH Maui College Great Lawn with multiple food vendors, performances, competitions, crafts, demonstrations, and a closing Obon dance as Maui’s only Japanese Festival ran entirely by volunteers. The Maui Matsuri is hosted by the Japanese Cultural Society of Maui and is supported with numerous major sponsors such as: The County of Maui, Local Union IBEW 1186, Maui Taiko, Hawaii Tourism Authority, Island Honda, and UH Maui College. The purpose of the Maui Matsuri is understood through their slogan and logo, “For the Sake of the Children”, intending on teaching the younger generations on Japanese culture and traditions. The Maui Matsuri started on Market Street in Wailuku, 1999, and has since become a mainstay annual attraction to locals of Maui.
The food booths remained mostly the same as previous years by offering TJ’s Warehouse Bento, Oyako Tei, the Wailuku Hongwanji quart size chow fun, and Da Works style shave ice, which offers a homemade adzuki bean and condensed milk topping. The only thing missing here was a Poi Mochi stand with a long line of people waiting. The Zenshin Daiko and Maui Taiko kept spirits high with their taiko drumming performances while Kendo, flute, and fan demonstrations were performed soon after. The Kodomo Games Corner continued to offer their more recent crafts such as: painting a fish to stamp onto a page or coloring paper stand up kokeshi dolls.
Most volunteers at the Games Corner almost entirely consist of local high school volunteers, such as Maui High and Baldwin High’s Japanese Club. Contests included this year were: art contests based on different age groups from kids to teens, the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate video game tournament hosted by UH Maui College’s Strategic Gaming Society Club, and the Cosplay Contest, where individuals will put hours into hand crafting costumes based on popular anime, video games, or other trending media.
The exhibits were moved to the Hale 218 portable area over their usual spot in Pilina Building, but their location kept them in the heart of the festival. Among the exhibits were: the flower arrangements that could be kept free of charge, JET program & tourism magazines for Japan, Bonsai display, flute playing demonstrations, and some panels explaining the history of Japanese in Hawaii. Ben Franklin’s held a tent where many craft booths were stationed and sold a variety of clothing, pillows, hand-stitched crafts, yukata, and many other Japanese products.
To close the Maui Matsuri, lanterns were lit and strung around the yagura, also known as a tower in the center of the event, and an Obon Dance was performed to honor deceased ancestors from Japanese Buddhist origin. In this celebration, anyone may join in the dance around the yagura and mimic the dancers closest to the center to participate. The Maui Matsuri is also informally seen as a kickoff event to all future matsuri that will take place at the various Japanese Missions on Maui for every upcoming weekend throughout June to late August. The Maui Matsuri has yet again delivered a worthwhile experience that people of all ages can enjoy.
*List of upcoming Obon Festivals: times, dates, and locations June-August.
- June 1 @ 7:30 pm: Lahaina Shingon Mission 682 Luakini St. 661-0466
- June 8 @ 7:30 pm: Puunene Nichiren Mission 9 Ani St. 871-4831
- June 14 with services at 6 pm (Dance to follow): Wailuku Jodo Mission 67 Central Ave 871-4911
- June 15 with services at 6:30 pm and Dance at 8 pm: Wailuku Shingon Mission 1939 North St. 244-3800
- June 28-29 with services at 6 pm (Dance to follow): Kahului Jodo Mission 325 Laau St. 871-4911
- July 6 with food at 5:30 pm, services at 6:30 pm, and lantern services at 7:30 pm: Lahaina Jodo Mission 12 Ala Moana St. 661-4304
- July 12 & 13 7:30-10:30 pm: Mantokuji Soto Mission of Paia 253 Hana Highway 579-8051
- July 19-20 7:30 with services at 6 pm: Kahului Hongwanji Mission 291 S. Puunene Ave 871-4732
- July 26-27 7 pm with services at 6 pm: Makawao Hongwanji Mission 1074 Makawao Ave 572-7229
- August 2-3 8 pm with services at 6:45: Wailuku Hongwanji Mission 1828 Vineyard St. 244-0406
- August 9-10 7:30 pm with services at 6 pm: Lahaina Hongwanji Mission 551 Wainee St. 661-0640
- August 17 7 pm with services at 6 pm: Rinzai Zen Mission 120 Alawai Rd 579-9921
- August 24 7:30 pm: Kula Shofukuji Shingon Mission 113 Puanani Pl 878-1833