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Yomitan fair this weekend, showcases local dance, song, culture

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-11-06

Okinawan music, dance, food, pottery, and fireworks: it all happens this weekend on November 7 and 8, at the Yomitan Matsuri", one of the last major festivals of the year. The two day event has grown in both size and popularity over the years, but it still manages to maintain a very local atmosphere. It appeals to the young and the old, and brings together the foreign community together with Okinawans for a very friendly and fun weekend.

The "matsuri" showcases a variety of entertainment, with a strong emphasis on children this year. Beginning at 2 pm, on Saturday, will be the opening ceremony at center stage, followed by performances by local students. Late in the afternoon, Okinawan music will entertain the audience with many traditional dances and songs. The colorful costumes and authentic local flavor of all the musical performances is what makes this "matsuri" stand out from others. All of the performances are done by the citizens of Yomitan through the many cultural and social clubs that exist there. The culmination point to all of the cultural entertainment is when 300 "sanshin", "koto", "taiko", and flute players take the stage. Some of the traditional dances you can expect to see include the "Nubui Kudachi", "Kagiyadefu", and "Chinchi Kudaki", which is a dance that is original to Yomitan Village. A group of children will also perform the "Hamano-amangua".

Sunday's festivities begin early with a kid's sumo tournament at 10 am. There will also be a Japanese tea ceremony exhibition from morning until night, and observers can take part in the traditional custom for free. Local children take over the stage at 2 pm performing Okinawa "Eisa", and also will be dancing and singing many different Okinawan songs throughout the day.

The highlight of the "Yomitan Matsuri" takes place on Sunday, at 6:30 pm, when a replica of a 14th century Ryukyu Kingdom trading vessel is brought out during a reproduction of a Ryukyu trading envoy, which visited China in the year 1372. Aboard the vessel was a local dignitary named Taiki, who was born in Yomitan. This historical three hour re-enactment is done in combination with music and dance, and although the ship used is a much smaller model of the original Ryukyu vessel, it gives you a glimpse of the fabulous culture and pride of ancient Okinawa and its people.

Besides spectacular entertainment, there will be plenty of food stalls, selling everything from locally grown "beni-imo" (Okinawan potato) to cotton candy. Yomitan pottery will also be on sale, and fireworks will light up the sky on both nights.

Some other events taking place will be "Mochi-tsuki", which is a traditional way of making "mochi" - a well known rice cake treat that is often filled with sweet beans. It is done by beating a special grain of cooked rice into a soft, sticky mixture with a huge mallet. Visitors are also welcome to give the experience a try!

A new event that has been added to the list of Yomitan's festival is "Togyu", which is an Okinawan bullfight. Not to be confused with a Spanish style bullfight, "Togyu" matches bull against bull. A victor is declared when one bull runs away after a face off. The bullfights will take place on Saturday at 2 pm.

If you are new to the island, or if you are simply looking for plenty of local entertainment all in one area, then make sure you visit the "Yomitan Matsuri". The festival will be held at the old Yomitan airfield, near the Yomitan Town Hall. Head up the road across from Tori Station's main gate and follow the signs.

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