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  • Kevin Hara

Andagi Syndrome

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

I had a diagnostic challenge. A patient presented with abdominal pain. I carefully ascertained the elements of the history of present illness. I delineated the quality of the pain, along with its severity and time course. I searched for associated signs and symptoms and any modifying factors. The diagnosis remained concealed until he asked me, “Do you think it could be the andagi?” As it turned out, it wasn’t that much of a challenge. I asked him how many he ate. He said “Fourteen.” Diagnosis made. Andagi Syndrome. I should have known all along. It was Obon Season.

Obon is the Japanese version of the Day of the Dead. The Japanese brought this tradition to Hawaiʻi when they arrived to work on the sugar plantations. It became a time for camaraderie and community after toiling in the fields.

The tradition has continued. It has evolved into a gathering reflective of the diversity of Hawaiʻiʻs people. Present are the young and the old, all nationalities, malihini and kamaʻaina, and the politicians, especially in an election year. I recall hanging out there during my high school years. When my boys were small, we took them to their first Bon Dance. The Taiko Drummer let them beat the drum. After that, they were hooked. They couldnʻt wait until the next Bon Dance.

You can hear the beat of the drums as they resonate deep into the surrounding neighborhoods. The flight of the flutes thrill into the night as they are accompanied by the synchronized movement of the yukata and hapi coat adorned dancers.

The treat of the Bon Dance Festival is the food; Bento packs, spam musubis, teri beef sandwiches and shave ice. But of all the menu items, the staple of Hawaiʻi Bon Dance Festivals is the andagi. Andagi is an Okinawan deep fried doughnut. Its crispy shell surrounds a soft inner cake. They are cooked on the spot in huge wok shaped fryers. At my last Bon Dance, they were being sold in packs of three for $2.00. Yes, packs of three, because, you canʻt eat just one. In fact, itʻs not too hard to accept that someone could eat fourteen.

Despite all the credit and appeal that the andagi receives for attending the Bon Dance, the real value is in community. As I sat on the temple steps, I saw people of all ethnicities, generations and origins gathered peacefully and enjoying their synchronized dance together. I sensed no hate. I sensed no fear. What I saw was our community coming together.


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