Emperor and Empress visit for Healthy Ocean ceremonies

Cartoon character “Abasango” is currently a favorite among the youngest in Okinawa. The character will be part of the show on Saturday at Itoman Michi-no-Eki.

Sunday’s ceremonies of an annual conference on fisheries promotion and marine environment protection is promising to be something more than special, as Japan’s Emperor and Empress will be on hand to lead the celebration.

The event, begun in 1981 and organized by the National Fishery Association, has been supported by every prefecture’s fisheries, and is backed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan. This 32nd National Meeting takes place at the Itoman Nishizaki Gymnasium, while stock fishing is accomplished at nearby Itoman fishery port.  The two-day event actually begins on Saturday.

This is one of three national events the Emperor and Empress attend each year.  The others involving the nation’s ceremonial leaders are the National Tree Planting Ceremony and the National Athletic Meeting.  The Emperor and Empress will participate in the fish stocking.

A healthy ocean is critical to Okinawa, a prefecture with 160 islands.  Okinawa spans a distance of 1,000 kilometers east to west and 400 kilometers north to south in the subtropical ocean.  Surrounding ocean areas reap the benefit of the Kuroshio, the Black Stream, and many fish inhabit the area filled with coral reefs.

For Okinawa, though, the times have not been so good.  There are problems of reduced fishery resources, the prices of fish going down, and a decreasing number of fishermen who are aging and retiring, with no young people to follow in their footsteps.  This National Meeting focuses on those problems of people, as well as knowledge of the importance of fishery resources.

Saturday’s opening ceremony is at 10 a.m., followed by forums, the Song of Itoman Haarii at 11:25 a.m., and a live stage show with manga characters Abasango and Kumamon at 11:45 a.m. and a live performance of singer Merry at 12:15 p.m.  Throughout the afternoon other performances and activities involve Ryujin Mabuya, Radio Broadcasting and another Abasango show with the Line Rise Orchestra at 4:15 p.m.

Sunday’s ceremonies are closed to the general public because of space limitations and security for the Emperor and Empress, but everything will be televised live.  From the ceremonies starting 9:30 a.m. to the live fish stocking at 11:35 a.m., Okinawa can follow the action.  From 12:05 p.m., the accent is on fun, with Kids’ Eisa by Tomigusuku City, a hula dance show, Sakana-Kun on stage, and another stage show by the Otome Tsubaki Talent School.  From 2:15 pm. there’s a Taiko drum show by Kazenomai, a dance performance by Itoman High School, Sakana-kun on stage, the results of Fish 1 Grand Prix, and the 4:20 p.m. grand finale.

Shuttle buses are to run from Akamine Yuirail Station, Churasan Beach open space and Shiozaki open space.