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Behind the scenes at OTV's "Dream Sand Festival"

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-11-27

On a dreary, rainy day sculptors are busy putting on the final detail of their art work. Their studio is outside. They are tired, but having fun. In one corner, two artists are applying a special bond to keep their sculpture from falling apart, while forty feet away four other artists are continuing to shape the outer wall of a castle. A university student is busy carrying buckets of sand. Two others pack it down and carefully carve each line. "You must work from the top to the bottom," one artist says - on some of the taller sculptures it means that any breakage near its summit would mean either starting over or working around it. Across the work area, a small tractor is busy pulling up sand from the sides. There are about 30 to 40 people working at various locations. It looks more like an archeological excavation site, with painstaking effort in trying to preserve ancient monuments. However, when finished, a miniature fantasy land will be standing - completely made of sand.

Until November 29 you can visit the "Dream Sand Festival" at "Kodomo no Kuni" (Kids Land) amusement park, located in Okinawa-City. The event is being sponsored by OTV in conjunction with the park. The idea originally came from Kaseda-city in Kagoshima Prefecture, where this past summer its 12th annual sand sculpting show took place along the beach. Inspired by sand sculpting shows in California, the city thought it would be a good way to promote both tourism and nature conservation here in Japan. It attracts over 110,000 people yearly, and displays between 70 to 80 sand sculptures. OTV came up with the idea to bring the event to Okinawa.

With all of the sand surrounding Okinawa, it would seem that having a sand sculpting exhibition here on the island would be simple. But it is not. The sand actually had to be brought in from China. It then took 100 trucks, each carrying ten tons of sand, to get their shipment from the docks to the location of the event. The environmentally-friendly bonding agent, which is needed to keep the sand together over a long period of time, has to be imported from America. Seven artists from the organization "Sand Sculpture International Japan" were then flown in from Kaseda-city to complete the project.

Mr. Shioga of the Kaseda-city Tourism division explained, "The sand found on Okinawa's beaches is too coarse. It is made of fine particles of coral, which does not stick together very well, so we decided to bring in sand from China." The sand we were standing on, as we were talking, was dark in color and very fine. It formed easily with any type of hand pressure. The site took up 400 square meters.

Since there has never been a sand sculpting show on Okinawa, a lack of experienced sand-artists presented a problem, which is why the artists from Kaseda-city were commandeered. Most of them are original members of "Sand Sculpture International Japan", the nation's first such organization. With over 100 members and branches in four other areas, including Kyushu and Shikoku, the group is hoping that sand sculpting will become more popular on Okinawa. Working together with them on the Okinawa project each day are between twenty to thirty students from the Okinawa Prefecture University of Art.

Noboru Matsuyama, who is one of the seven artists visiting Okinawa, said, "I wish for everyone to enjoy this. I hope that it inspires people not to forget their childhood and to also take better care of our ocean and nature." Despite having worked everyday in foul weather, with no time off to see the island, Matsuyama said that he still is having a wonderful time. "This is a lot of fun for me to do."

The park is open everyday from 9 am until 7 pm, and there will also be a children's show on Saturday and Sunday. Show times are at 10 am, 1 pm, and 3:30 pm. The park also offers a variety of amusement rides. To get there from Gate 2, go straight and turn right at the Goya Intersection on to Highway 330. Turn left after passing San-A and Okinawa Bank at the traffic light. Go straight and you will see the park. Entrance fee is 1500 for adults and 800 for children.

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