The throbbing beat of traditional drums will be heard across Okinawa beginning tomorrow, a dance celebration of Obon that fills the air with excitement and happiness amidst prayers for good health and a good harvest.
Okinawa City is hosting what many bill as the largest Eisa festival on the island, the 53rd Island-wide Eisa Festival on a three-day run beginning tomorrow. The festival takes place at Koza Athletic Park and Track and Field Stadium, starting with a parade Friday at 7 p.m. The parade winds its way through Mutsumiga Oka Park, Koza Music Town and along Gate 2 Street.
Eisa, an Okinawan ceremonial dance using drums, was originally performed to welcome and console the souls of one’s ancestors during the Summer ‘Bon’ season, but has evolved into community celebrations. Eisa festivals are a photographer’s dream, with the steady beat of various drums leading dances to multiple dynamic moves, while the colorful and exotic costumes get spectators caught up in the excitement.
Okinawa City, which has generated countless famous Eisa teams over the years, has been hosting the Island-wide Eisa Festival since 1956, inviting Eisa groups from across the prefecture to participate. The festival comes the weekend after Obon holidays themselves.
Festival admission is free, except for entrance to the main grandstand. S-seat reserved tickets are ¥2,000 in advance and ¥2,500 at the door. A-seat reserved tickets are ¥1,200 in advance, or ¥1,500 at the gate. B-seat tickets, which are actually standing room spaces in the grandstand, are ¥500 at the door. They are not reserved.
Saturday entertainment at Koza Athletic Park begins at 7:15 p.m. with Okinawa City’s Noborikawa area young people, followed by Yamasato, Kubota and Goeku area teams. A Kachashii dance at 8:45 p.m. brings everyone together for the evening finale. Ceremonial presentations Sunday begin at 3 p.m., followed by a children’s performance.
Eisa dance continues non-stop from 3:30 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., with performances by Okinawa City, Yomitan, Uruma City, Kadena Town, Ryukyukoku, Itoman, and Chatan groups. A Kachashii dance takes the evening toward a grand ending, with fireworks at 8:50 p.m.
The Island-wide Eisa Festival is the granddaddy of festivals, events and exhibitions slated for this weekend, with a dozen other opportunities for people to get out and have fun. Anyone not finding recreation this weekend can only be labeled a ‘homebody’.
Yoetsu-no Mori Park, Ishikawa, Uruma City is the venue Saturday for the free Ihijya Youth Eisa Festival, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The Okinawa Peace Memorial Park festival runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park in Itoman City. Admission is free. Kadena Town is active Saturday, hosting the free Kadena Shin-machi Eisa Festival on Shimachi Street. Start time is 6 p.m. Uragahama Park in Heshiki Fishing Port is the setting Saturday for the Heshiki-ya Youth Eisa Festival. The free fun begins at 6 p.m.
Two-day events start with Eisa Night at Koza Music Town in Okinawa City Saturday and Sunday. Events are free. Kunigami Village’s annual Kunigami Festival starts its weekend run Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Kunigami Middle School Grounds. At Camp Kinser, a free Flea Market takes place Saturday and Sunday, noon to 3 p.m. The Kumoji Summer Festival kicks off Saturday at 5 p.m. at Palette Kumoji Square in Naha City. Admission is free both Saturday and Sunday.
An International Cat Exhibition kicks off Saturday at Ryubo Department Store’s 6th Floor Exhibition Hall, running until the 25th. Tickets are ¥700 for adults, while junior high school students and younger are ¥500. Entry is free to kids under three. Ryubo Department Store is located in Palette Kumoji, Naha City.
For those who can’t get enough excitement across Okinawa, there’s always the following weekend. The big event ahead is the Eisa/Orion Beer Festival August 22nd ~ 24th.