Hiromi in Hilo–Tondo-sai at Hilo Daijingu

by Hiromi W. Chung

This year is the 150th anniversary of the Japanese immigration to Hawaii.

In Hilo, I have been surprised how many traditional Japanese customs still remain here but have evolved overtime. For example, one custom is the kadomatsu decoration for the New Year. It is made with bamboo and pine leaves and is traditionally put as a pair in front of house entrances until January 7. Nowadays, in Japan, except for department stores, restaurants, and government offices, most households don’t display kadomatsu, and it isn’t sold at stores anymore.

In Hilo, however, we can get kadomatsu from a variety of places such as KTA, the farmer’s market, and Japanese churches. I saw many people buying kadomatsu here in Hilo, so I bought a small kadomatsu for our house from the downtown farmer’s market.Another custom involves a festival during which one burns old kadomatsu, omamori, ofuda, daruma, etc. at Shinto shrines on January 15. The festival goes by various names in different regions. For example, in my hometown, we call it Dondo-yaki. Hilo Daijingu calls it Tondo-sai. On this day, our family brought our kadomatsu and attended Tondo-sai at Hilo Daijingu. At the festival, Chief Priest Hotta chanted Norito to Gods, and we prayed for our good health for this year.He then set fire to a pile of old kadomatsu and ofuda, and other people put more old ofuda into the fire until everything was gone.


During the festival, kids enjoyed making s’more and fried mochi by the fire.If you haven’t heard of this festival until today, let’s go next year to Hilo Daijingu and enjoy it together!

Happy living Hilo style!






One comment

  1. Aloha Hiromi! Thank you for the post. Our hometown in Japan is Mutsu, Aomori Prefecture. We were quite surprised when we moved to Hilo 15 years ago, to experience Japanese customs that seem 150 years old and are rarely seen in Japan, even in rural areas like Shimokita in Aomori Prefecture. Definitely a plus to living Hilo style!


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