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Tasty sweet potato has its own festival

Date Posted: 2011-09-30

When making plans for festival-hopping on the weekend, Okinawa offers a lot of variety, and this weekendís no exception: itís time to celebrate the humble sweet potato.

Although it may not sound very exciting, donít be misled and think about staying home, because this tuberous root is an absolute hit, this weekend the Noguni Soukan Festival is celebrated in Kaneku Kaihin Park, located near the Kadena Marina on Highway 58. Admission is free..

The festival is named after Noguni Soukan, the Ryukyu bureaucrat who brought the sweet potato home from China in 1605, planting seeds in his hometown, Kadena Town. The story is simple from there; the durable nature of the sweet potato, and the ease in which it grows, saved countless Japanese from hunger through the centuries, and particularly in the World War II years.

Sweet potatoes are for sale, and vendors will even be offering tasty samples. Thatís only the beginning though. Interestingly, the town where Noguni Soukan worked his magic 405 years ago isnít the Kadena Town people think; the original community location is now in the midst of the sprawling U.S. Kadena Air Base.

Saturdayís festivities begin with afternoon ceremonies. Technically the beer begins flowing Friday evening at this 31st annual Noguni Soukan Festival, and the fun continues through Sunday evening. Music is live on stage Saturday with Acoustic M, G-FA and SS Company, with fireworks capping the festival evening at 8:55 p.m. Other events will include a tug-of-war, Eisa dance, and of course, a sweet potato harvest.

Thereís limited parking at the Kaneku Kaihin Park, so organizers encourage visitors to use free shuttle busses rotating around Kadena Town from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday East coast circulating bus stops are in front of Marunouchi Printing Company, the Central Bus Terminal and Yara bus stop, and the Kadena Road Station. A second route goes from Kadena High School South Gate, through Yara housing complex, then in front of Korinza Building, Nosato Kyoshin Hall, Kadena bus stop and Marunouchi Printing.

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