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Okinawa International Carnival '98 has arrived

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-10-09

This weekend brings to town the "1998 Okinawa International Carnival". The very festive event has become a favorite for Okinawa-city residents and foreigners living on the island. It combines music, dance, parades, and a variety of food and drink for a fun filled weekend for everyone. The carnival came to be the international event it is today in 1993, when Okinawa-city combined three different "matsuri" into one. "We wanted to create a more international theme," explained Isamu Tamaki, who is Deputy General Manger of the Okinawa Chamber of Commerce.

The carnival is not held at a sports-ground or large field like other "matsuri". It takes place along Gate 2 Street, which is completely closed to all traffic during the entire festival. The location gives the carnival a "block-party" type of atmosphere, with people literally dancing in the streets! You can expect to find plenty of yaki-tori, yaki-soba, beer, and soft drinks lining both sides of the main avenue. There will also be two main stages at each end of the street, providing entertainment throughout the first day, Saturday. The stage furthest from Gate 2 will devote itself to local Okinawan song and dance, while stage number one will feature some excellent rock-n-roll. The rock music begins at 4 pm with "BMJ", and continues into the night with "Innocent", "Yuko Yoshikawa's Band", and "Hibagon". Rock fans will then be treated to a performance by the awesome "Clay Sun Union" at 5:45 pm, followed by the "ORS Band Special". Other events scheduled for Saturday are the "Miss Hibiscus" beauty contest, folk dances, and Okinawan bull fights. The bull fights will take place at the Okinawa City Bull Ring, starting at 2 pm.

Families will be happy to know that there is also plenty to do for the kids. There will be a children's play area featuring different games, and a huge tug-of -war will take place at 5:30 pm. The huge sixty meter rope was made by volunteers. Organizers are hoping to get as many children as possible to participate. "The tug-of-war is open to all children, and we would like to see many kids come out to the carnival," said Tamaki.

One of the main events of the Okinawa International Carnival is the International Parade, which will take place on Sunday, October 11, the final day. The parade begins at 4 pm from two different points on Route 330, with half of the participants walking from the Plaza House Shopping Center, while the other half will start from the Koza Intersection. Everyone will converge at the Goya Intersection and then continue down Gate 2 Street. The parade features about 5,000 people representing 66 different groups from around Okinawa. Visitors get a chance to see 1,000 "Ryukyu Matsuri Taiko Drummers", along with a U.S. flag display from all fifty states. The boy scouts, girl scouts, and Kadena cheerleaders are among some of the other groups participating. The parade will have participants stop along their route at several different areas, where everyone will join in on the Okinawan "Kachashi" dance.

Although Sunday will not feature any concerts, there will still be many food booths along Gate 2 Street, and the parade will continue into the night. Everyone will be partying in the streets, enjoying the carnival atmosphere. Fireworks will light up the sky at 9 pm, and then everyone will join in on one last "kachashi" dance to end the night.

Parking areas have been planned at Koza Elementary School, Moromi Elementary School, and at Nakanomachi. However, because of the large number of people expected at the carnival, officials are requesting that if possible, military personnel and their families walk out from Gate 2.

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