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Urasoe festival relives Ryukyu history

Date Posted: 2010-07-15

It isn’t the largest festival on Okinawa, but this weekend’s Urasoe Tedako Festival has all the trappings of an American community fair that brings to life the island’s history.

The annual three-day Urasoe Tedako Festival kicks off tomorrow night on the city’s Yafuso Street, bringing the touch of summer pageantry, entertainment, music and, of course, food. It’s the 33rd year Urasoe City has staged the event, the city’s largest of the year, and city fathers look forward to sharing a bit of Okinawan culture with the thousands of foreigners sharing the island.

The Tedako Festival, with Tedako meaning ‘children of the sun’, pays homage to the king of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom. The ancestral King Eiso ruled in Urasoe, with the royal castle now in the Urasoe Castle Park. Only ruins of some walls remain of the castle today. The festival begins tomorrow with taking the fire from the sun at the castle ruins. Yafuso Street has been turned into a pedestrian zone for Friday’s pre-festival. Friday’s festivities begin at 5 p.m. at Yafuso Street, and run until 10 p.m.

A plus for many military families is the convenience of having a major festival virtually in the back yard. Urasoe’s centrally located near Camp Kinser, just south of Kadena Air Base and Camps Lester, Foster, Buckner and Futenma. Parking is more available than in many other festivals across the island.

Festival action takes place Saturday at the Iso Castle Park and the adjacent Urasoe Athletic Field, starting with the Tedako Fire Ceremony at 2 p.m. The day’s first activities are a cultural entertainment performance beginning at 1 p.m. at Urasoe Tedako Hall, with sports activities take place throughout the afternoon at the Urasoe City Gymnasium. A musical concert starts at 6 pm. At the castle ruins, the Tedako fire lightning ceremony is at 7 p.m., a taiko drum festival at 7:30 p.m., and fireworks at 9 p.m.

Sunday’s another fun-filled day of performances, drums, races and of course, fireworks. The Tedako Haarii Tournament kicks off at 9 a.m. at the Makiminato Fishing Port. The port is just off Highway 58. Sunday’s festival wraps up, with a dazzling fireworks display.

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