Ryukyu Lantern Festival puts magic in the night
As the Okinawan winter season sets in, the weather gets cooler and nights fall earlier. But that does not mean there would be fewer interesting activities to do, events to attend and sights to see. As a matter of fact, many people like the Okinawan cooler winter weather better than the hot summer.
One of the most interesting annual events started Friday when the Ryukyu Lantern Festival 2019 at Murasaki Mura theme park in Yomitan Village turned the lights of some 5,000 lanterns on and welcomed visitors to enjoy the dark fall and winter nights in the Ryukyu Kingdom-themed setting.
The event takes place daily through the end of March. The various-style colorful lanterns and mysterious sights throughout the Murasaki Mura theme park delight visitors with enhanced and often very romantic spots where visitors enjoy taking photos of themselves and their friends. There are delicious foods and great entertainment, including traditional Eisa, Okinawan folk song performances and Projection mapping shows every night on a stage in the middle of the park.
A path leading down to the main area of the festival is lined with lanterns hand-made by local school children, During the festival, visitors are invited to vote for their favorite among the children’s works.
Fluffy and delicious shaved ice, Okinawa Soba noodles and snack-style foods are served within the park from several stalls and the Lantern Café at the center of the festival offers popular Jumbo yakitori – grilled chicken – on skewers and Chinese-style steamed nikuman buns that are a perfect match to a cool winter evening.
The Murasaki Mura park is designed to evoke the time past during the 14th and 15th century Ryukyu Kingdom era, often referred to as the golden age of the kingdom when trade and cultural exchange with neighboring countries flourished. In 1393, Chinese Emperor Hongwu sent a group of thirty-six artisan families from Fuzhou to Kume Village, Naha, that became one of the oldest Chinatowns in the world.
The Murasaki Mura theme park was originally built as a setting for a television drama “Winds of the Ryukyus” that depicted life in the early 15th century in the Ryukyu Kingdom. The drama ran on the Japanese NHK TV network in 1993. When the filming was done, the park was made into the Murasaki Mura theme park. The festival runs daily from 5:30 to 10 p.m., Dec. 1 through Mar. 31. The last entry to the park is 9:30 p.m. Murasaki Mura is open from 9 a.m. but the lanterns are lit up at 6 p.m. Admission to the festival for adults and high school students is ¥1,200, for junior high students ¥500, elementary school students ¥400, and children 6 and younger are free.