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Novel Ilukanda Festival dedicated to a flower

Date Posted: 2012-03-23

The official name of the flower is Mucuna Macro Carpa, but is referred to as the Ilukanda, a flower that lures people seeking the unusual.

It’s a strong enough draw that residents of Kunigami Village on the far northeast coast of Okinawa have a six-week festival to give people plenty of time to see and appreciate the Ilukanda, a plant belonging to the pea family. It’s now in bloom in Yanbaru, and the festival that began a week ago will run through April 30th. The Okinawan name Ilukanda comes from Ilu which means Color, and Kanda, meaning Liana.

The plant grows as a vine, which twists around trees. There are something between 10,000~20,000 Ilukanda flowers now in bloom at Kongou Sekirizan Park. Its purple colored flowers are formed in the shape of a parrot’s beak. Visitors can also see a Shisa made with flowers.

Historically, there’s a tie between Ilukanda and tug-of-war events staged around the island. In Kunigami Village’s Okuma district, a tug-of-war has been conducted every two years for ages, all part of prayers for a good harvest. The rope used is made of straw, and the Ilukanda vine is used to bind the big ropes, because its “intensity of unity and firm ties of the people” bring good luck, but residents add this is because the vine is so strong that it never breaks.

In the post-war period, when the Naha Great Tug-of-War was revived, longtime residents say the early big rope was the one used in Okuma, then brought to Naha for reuse.

Admission to Dai-Sekirin-Zan at 1241 Ginama in Kunigami Village is ¥800 for adults, and ¥400 for kids four years of age through junior high school age. To get to the Ilukanda Festival, travel all the way to the northernmost tip of Okinawa following Highway 58. Once at there, follow signs right to Kongou Sekirizan, where the left turn at the intersectiuon takes you to Hedo Misaki.

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