Maui Arts & Entertainment

Maui Matsuri Kickoff Scheduled for April 29

April 22, 2016, 8:53 AM HST
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Maui Matsuri. File image courtesy Maui Matsuri.

Maui Matsuri. File image courtesy Maui Matsuri.

The 16th Annual Maui Matsuri presents an opportunity for the community to honor, celebrate and perpetuate Japanese culture through a kickoff event on Friday, April 29, an Obon dance practice on Friday May, 6, with the main festivities commencing on Saturday, May 7, at the University of Hawai‘i Maui College. Admission is free to all events.

The kickoff event on April 29, will include taiko performances, karate demonstrations and Japanese dancing from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center’s stage. The event is sponsored in part by Araki-Regan & Associates LLC.

The kickoff event will also feature minyo (folk) dancing, prize giveaways, a coloring contest sponsored by Sanrio, appearances by Hello Kitty and more.

The kickoff will conclude with bon odori (bon dance) practice around the stage at approximately 8:15 p.m. Those with no experience are encouraged to join in.

The purpose of this free event is to engage the community and bring more public awareness about the upcoming 16th annual Maui Matsuri scheduled for the following weekend.


All ages and skill levels are invited to learn the basics of Japanese Bon dancing at the Maui Matsuri’s Let’s Dance workshop on May 6, at 7 p.m. in the Pilina Building at UHMC.


The Japanese Buddhist tradition of obon includes taiko drumming, lantern hanging and bon odori—a group dance performed around the yagura (musician’s tower).

The workshop will introduce Maui to a new bon dance entitled “Ei Ja Nai Ka,” which will be taught to the group by PJ Hirabayashi, artistic director emeritus and founding member of San Jose Taiko established in 1973.

PJ and her husband, Roy Hirabayashi, have received numerous recognitions and awards, including Artist Legacy Laureate from Silicon Valley Creates, the National Heritage Fellowship for Traditional and Folk Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts, and Commendations from the Foreign Ministry of Japan.


Two local bon dance groups, Maui Minyo Kai and Nakayama Minyo Kai, will help teach additional Japanese dance skills, which can then be put to use at the following day’s Maui Matsuri and at the many Obon festivals celebrated at Maui temples throughout the summer.

Maui Matsuri’s main event comes on May 7, with a host of Japanese and Okinawan activities for all ages from 2 to 9 p.m. at the UHMC Great Lawn. The event will feature a food zone, craft booths, entertainers and demonstrations, contests, cultural exhibits, kids games, crafts and more.

This year’s special guests include two taiko groups from Hawai‘i Island—Taishoji Taiko and Puna Taiko.

Matsuri organizers are seeking contestants to enter Saturday’s cosplay, video-gaming, manga and art, natto and saimin eating contests, and the festival’s first ever Yu-Gi-Oh & Pokemon card tournaments.

Those who are interested in entering the contests can do so at the festival.

For a complete listing of contests and contest guidelines, visit

For more information about the Maui Matsuri kickoff event, call the festival hotline at (808) 283-9999 or go online.

The Maui Matsuri festival is presented by the Japanese Cultural Society of Maui with major support by the County of Maui, Hawaii Tourism Authority, Island Honda, IBEW-Local Union 1186, Maui Taiko and UHMC.

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