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Eisa Festival keeps Okinawan tradition alive

By: Marie W. Conway

Date Posted: 1998-07-30

The annual Eisa Festival has been an on-going tradition for Okinawans for 43 years, but only about 10 years ago foreigners were invited to participate. Peter Ku, a coordinator of the Okinawa City International Association (OCIA) and graduate of Washington State University, said that he hopes many people will come and join in on the fun of the festival Sep. 13, whether to perform or become part of the "pep squad." Last year, over 250,000 people came to see this spectacular event and it was televised all over Japan. There are about 18 groups who will partake in this exhibition, of which 15 are local teams who are primarily 'youths' (16 - 25 year old) and the other three are 'special' teams -- women, children (3 - 6th grade) and international.

Okinawa's traditional dance called Eisa, is practiced to chase away evil and bring in the good. The lunar calendar dictates that a festival called Obon is celebrated this year starting Sep. 3, for 3 days to welcome spirits of ancestors, entertain them and then send them back off to heaven. Eisa is performed all 3 days of Obon.

There are many variations of this dance depending on the locale. Fifteen variations of the Eisa dance will be exhibited on the 13th, such as mimicking karate, which OCIA group will perform, plowing, fishing and joyful and clownish ones. Eisa is not only done during festivals, but also for many other celebrations.


Peter Ku, whose parents are from Okinawa and China, stated that if you have an "appetite for meeting people of various cultures or you just like to perform in front of thousands of people, it can be a very gratifying experience. And when you go back to your country you can teach Eisa to others and share this wonderful dance."

Practices are scheduled on Mon., Wed. and Fri. The sessions started on July 22, and will continue through Sep.13. The OCIA team will combine with a nursing home's residents and staff team. Practice videos will also be available for studying at home. Minors who are 13 years or older can participate, with the consent of the guardian. The participation fee is $25 or 3,000 per person.

The festival will be held at the Okinawa City Baseball Stadium close to Kadena gate 5. However, the parking in the area is practically non-existent, and the police will not be lenient. The best bet is to park at the USO on Kadena. Then walk out of Gate 2 take a right at the 2nd traffic light and the stadium will be on the left side after about 15-minute walk..

For more information call Ms. Teruya or Ms. Lawn at 939-1212, ext.2421 Monday through Friday between 1 and 5 p.m. or Peter Ku at 933-3902.

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