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Eisa brightens this weekend

Date Posted: 2011-08-19

Okinawa City puts on its biggest smile tomorrow as it opens the three-day All Okinawa Eisa Festival, featuring dozens of eisa drummers performing at the Okinawa City Park.

It all starts with a parade Friday evening, beginning at 7:30 p.m. The festivities begin at two locations in the Nakanamachi area just before Goya Crossing off Gate 2 Street. The dance groups will start from the Gate 2 Street entrance and move south, while a second batch will start at the southern end of Nakanamachi and dance their way to Gate 2 Street.

Michijune marks the festival beginning, dancing eisa along the street of each aza community. Just like bon odori, it is a traditional event that, on an old bon in Okinawa night, young people in the village dance around one household to another. These days, during the michijune parade each household gives donations, which is used as an important funding source for activities in youth associations.

Ten groups perform from 7 ~ 9 p.m. near Koza Music Town, while 12 other groups in two venues perform along Gate 2 Street. Saturday and Sunday the fun picks up as the Eisa Festival joins with the Orion Beer Festival. Dancers perform during the day, and carnival activities are in full swing. Even foreigners get into the act, performing Sunday under the banner of the Okinawa International Friendship Association.

The All Okinawa Eisa Festival was first held in 1956, on what was then known as the Okinawa City Athletic Field. With the Obon holiday behind them, Okinawans are ready to dance even more. Eisa dance is a traditional Okinawan dance using taiko drums, pounding out the beat. Eisa is a mainstay of Obon, a Buddhist holiday that focuses on honoring Okinawan ancestors’ spirits.

Eisa programs start at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Koza Athletic Park, running non-stop until 8:45 p.m., when Kachachi free style dance kicks in and gets everyone excited about the fireworks that start at 9 p.m. The melodious sounds of Okinawa will continue virtually non-stop, with groups each performing 20 minutes.Cans, bottles and coolers are prohibited at the All Okinawa Eisa Festival site, but PET bottles are permitted.

The Koza Sightseeing Association, one of the organizers selling seating tickets for the main grandstand, is ready. Tickets for special seats are ¥2,000 in advance, while advance arena seats are ¥1,200.

The 56th Okinawa Island-wide Eisa Festival and Orion Beer Festival takes place at Koza Sports Park in Okinawa City. The location is just southeast of Kadena Air Base, between Gates 2 and 6. An annual recommendation for those with base privileges: park on base and walk to the festival grounds. You’ll find walking is faster than driving through the dense crowds. For those who must drive, travel south from the northern camps and bases, getting off at Exit 4, Okinawa Minami. From the tollbooth turn right at the intersection and follow the crowd. Traveling north on the Okinawa Expressway, again, Exit 4. The drive is about 40 minutes from Naha International Airport.

By bus, a dozen bus lines (21, 23, 27, 31, 62, 63, 75, 77, 112, 113, 123, 263 and 290) approach the site, stopping at Sonda Bus Stop. >From there, it’s ten minutes on foot. The busses are recommended, as they’ll bring you to the crowded area with minimum fuss.

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