Futenma Festival brings spiritual aspect to folk fun

Firewaking is one of the more exotic events at Futenma Festival.

Futenma shrine was built in 1459 at the King’s behest. For many years the shrine was known to be a place where many people came to pray, do community gatherings and was even used as a recreation area for not only citizens of Ginowan City, but the whole central part of Okinawa.

Local children’s group in colorful traditional costumes pose before performance.

Sadly, recently the majority of people know the shrine mainly as a place where you go when someone dies. So, to show that the shrine is a place where anybody can visit at any time, and also a place for recreation where one can feel a more profound spiritual feeling, this festival was started five years ago.

The festival is hosted by the Futenma Festival Executive Committee. Visitors to the festival can experience some of the shrine’s traditional customs including fire walking, zen sitting meditation and art of self-defense.

After spending an afternoon at the festival, you might begin to see the shrine as a completely new place.

Visitors can also enjoy performances on stage, including hula dancing, balloon performance and traditional Japanese art of storytelling called “Rakugo.”

Of course, like every Okinawan festival there will be no shortage of food booths to grab a bite to eat or have a cold beer or soft drink.

The 5th Futenma Festival takes place on Futenm Shrine grounds on Saturday starting at 11 a.m. and continuing through 5 p.m. Admission to the festival is free, but food and drinks have a price. Parking is a problem, and the nearest on-base parking is inside Camp Foster Legion Gate. From there it’s about 10-minute walk to the Futenma Shrine.