Okinawa marks holidays with light shows
By Bill Charles
Colorful lights are twinkling and casting their glow off the night skies of Okinawa, a sign that Christmas is just around the corner. Holiday lights are traditional, and here, the illuminations are fantastic.
The 14th Itoman Peaceful Illumination is now in progress, and runs through January 3rd, but at a
new location in Itoman. It’s new location is the Itoman Kanko Noen, the Itoman Tourist Farm, at 1018 Mabuni, Itoman City. Although the site is new, it’s not hard to find. Travel Highway 331 and go past Peace Memorial Park on the right, then turn left to the entrance of the Itoman Tourist Farm. Admission is ¥200 for high school age and older, and free to junior high school age and younger.
Lights of peace, the Itoman Peaceful Illumination, is an event entrusting the prayer for peace from the ground of the Battle of Okinawa ending, and through illuminations, it send greetings to the world. More than 1.3 million miniature lights are being lit in Itoman City December 17th, site of where the 1945 Battle of Okinawa came to an end. Organizers call the festival an event “sending to the world Okinawa’s prayers for peace.”
Lights will be illuminated daily from 6 p.m. ~ 10 p.m. through January 3rd. More than 120,000 visitors are expected during the illumination run. Two live concerts are slated for Christmas eve and Christmas night and another on New Years Eve, with fireworks on Christmas 9 p.m. and midnight New Year’s Eve. A New Year’s countdown will be broadcast live on Okinawa television. Green Note Coaster performs Christmas Eve, Kiiyama Shoten, SASA and others on Christmas, and Ryu-T Unit on New Year’s Eve. All live performances are 7 p.m. ~ 9 p.m.
Even as the Itoman Peaceful Illumination is set to begin, plans are being finalized for the 34th Mabuni Fire & Bell Observance New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day. The ceremonial festival takes place at Okinawa Peace Memorial Hall, which also stands in Mabuni, with prayers being offered to the 230,000 who died during the Battle of Okinawa. Just before the new year arrives, moments before the stroke of midnight, the flame of prayer will descend from the 45-meter-high bell tower to light participants’ torches as they welcome in the new year.
As a choir sings, the Bell of Peace is rung as participants light the large flame holder with their torches. It’s a solemn, chilling festival that’s not to be missed.
Drives around the island will produce dozens of businesses who’ve lit up their properties for the holiday season, and hotels are turning up the lights, too. Itoman Candle Night runs Saturday through Christmas Eve on Monday at Street Station Itoman. The candle which wrote the message of peace is burned, and provides a terrific vision. The tree made of PET bottles will also be turned on, and the city is simultaneously holding a candle vigil. Candles are set at 5 p.m. and lights are on 6 p.m. ~ 9 pm. each evening.
Kanucha Bay Hotel and Villas’ holiday display is worth the drive up Highway 58 to the north,
where its eco-sustainable style of holiday lighting is in place daily from 6 p.m. The lights go on with a grade switching-on ceremony each afternoon at 5:55 p.m. The hotel complex has a giant 12-meter Christmas tree, plus an outdoor display of more than 100,000 colorful lights. The Kanucha Resort is greeting the new year with its 15th anniversary, and has upgraded its Stardust Fantasia “world of light” with this year’s theme, The Time for Paradise. The 106 days are divided into four seasons, and the resort has prepared various events and contents so the expression and mood, which are different each season, can be enjoyed.
Stardust Fantasia runs through February 14th, from 5:55 p.m. to 11 p.m. Admission is ¥1,500 in advance, including Fantasia hologlass, and ¥2,000 at the door.