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5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival Opens

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2011-10-14

An estimated six thousand Okinawans have made their way home for the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival, which formally kicked off at Au Cellular Stadium in Naha City Thursday evening.

The four-day event, which actually began last evening with a Festival Eve Parade down Kokusai Street and to Naha Tenbusu Hall, is bringing together a small fraction of the 400,000 people of Okinawan descent now living in North and South America, as well as in numerous other pockets around the world. Uchinanchu is the Okinawan word for Okinawan feature, and is chosen as the name for the gathering that takes place every five years.

The first Uchinanchu Festival was in 1990, attracting nearly 2,400 from 41 regions in 17 countries, bring Issei emigrants home after decades of separation, and bringing a Nisei and Sansei for the first time to their mother prefecture, where locals and visitors worked together to reestablish roots and establish bonds beyond borders. Five years later, the World Uchinanchu Business Network was formed to spearhead the 2nd festival in 1995. Some 3,922 participated, setting the stage for the 3rd festival in 2001, which brought 4,325 to Okinawa only weeks after the deadly Al Qaida attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in the United States. The last event, in 2006, increased the number to 4,937 from 21 countries.

This year’s festival is expected to far exceed those numbers, both in actual visitors and countries represented. Locally, most of Okinawa’s 41 communities have signed on for cultural exchange parties, receptions, sightseeing, tea ceremonies and tree plantings. Communities from Nago, Motobu , Higashi Village and Nakijin Village in the north to cities, towns and villages across central and southern Okinawa, and across to Miyakojima City and Ishigaki are all involved in a host of events.

An Emigration Documents and Materials Exhibition runs through the festival at the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum, while Shurijo Castle Park is the site for Dedicatory Dance and Karate. Other events take place at the Okinawa Convention Hall and at halls and athletic fields in communities across the island. A full listing of events and times is available in the Events section of Japan Update, on the Japan Update website www.japanupdate.com, and on the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival website www.2uf5th.com. Closing ceremonies and the Grand Finale take place Sunday at Au Cellular Stadium.

Festival organizers have a series of free shuttle bus services available for participants to move from events and venues. Specifics of the seven routes that run Friday through Sunday between Au Cellular Stadium, the Okinawa Convention Center, Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum, Shurijo Castle Park, the National Theatre Okinawa and Nah Theatre Citizens hall are available on the festival website.
The World Business Fair, a business networking event for Worldwide Uchinanchu entrepreneurs who run businesses, takes place Friday and Saturday at the Okinawa Convention Center’s Conference Building A. WUB organizers say they expect the event to become a primary element of future festivals, promoting the ideas of co-existence and cooperation in finding new business opportunities.

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