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New Year's fun at Ryukyu Mura

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1999-01-01

If you are looking for a fun and interesting place to spend your Christmas and New Year vacation, then head on over to Ryukyu Mura. The cultural theme park will hold a special parade on January 1,2, and 3, featuring Okinawan "Eisa" (traditional dance during "obon" festival). The New Year's event will include other performances of Okinawan dance and music during regularly scheduled shows, and the park also enables you to see and learn about the history and culture of Okinawa.

During all three days, starting from 11 am, "Eisa" dancers and drummers will make their way around the park, along with other characters from ancient Okinawan folklore. You can catch a "Taiko" drum performance at 9:30 am and again at 3:30 pm, and there will be plenty of Okinawan music and dance at the park's entertainment hall.

If you get hungry, you can sample many of the home-made Okinawan snacks for sale, or you can try some traditional food at Ryukyu Mura's own restaurant. The park is serving a New Year's lunch special for 1050, which includes Okinawan soba, vegetables, tempura, and the Okinawan delicacy of pig's ears.

Ryukyu Mura was created to give visitors the chance to experience the rich culture and history of Okinawa through its authentically created mini-village. Set in the lush hills of Yamada, Onna-son, the area holds many original Okinawan style houses, which are characteristically marked by their traditional red tiled roofs. Ryukyu Mura was able to carefully disassemble many homes that were slated for demolition by their owners around various sites of the prefecture, and bring them to the park to be reassembled. The result has been a recreation of what a traditional Okinawan village looked like many years ago. Each home has a description of where it was previously located, the year that the house was built, and some facts about its former owner. The village gives you a good idea of what everyday life was like for Okinawans during the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

What is even more impressive is that Ryukyu Mura is actually a working village, where employees carry out daily chores in the same fashion that they would have been done about fifty to a hundred years ago. Many of the things you will observe are important Okinawan crafts - women inside one of the homes are busy making "orimono", a method of dying textiles woven on traditional looms. At another house, "bingata" is carefully being done. It is the method of creating the colorful kimono designs originally worn only by royalty and those who were considered to be divinely close to the gods. Historically, both practices were performed by highly skilled women to create beautiful pieces of cloth, which were used for both dress and for trade with China and other South East Asian countries during the Ryukyu Kingdom era.

As you stroll through the winding paths of the village you will also come upon the "sata-ya" (sugar factory), where black sugar is made the traditional way. Everyday stalks of sugar cane are fed between huge, iron wheels, which are rotated by the power of a water buffalo. This method of making sugar was a common scene at many of Okinawa's farming villages, and Ryukyu Mura still carries out the time consuming practice. The black sugar is packaged and sold on the premises, and is also used to prepare the "sata-andagi", an Okinawan snack that tastes much like a doughnut. You can sample the "sata-andagi" at another part of the village inside one of the old farm houses.

Each step along the way takes you through many different aspects of rural life, where history comes alive. Ryukyu Mura also lets you observe how Okinawan pottery was made, which was another very important item used during trade with other kingdoms. Many traditional "shi shi" lions, which are still used today to ward off evil from Okinawan homes, are on display. All items can also be purchased as gifts.

The park is open everyday from 8:30 am until 5:30 pm. The entrance fee for adults is 840 and 420 for children. If you would also like to see the popular "habu" mongoose fight, there is an extra 420 charge for adults and 210 for kids. To get there, head north from Kadena Circle. After you pass the giant cow and pigs on your left, look for the huge Ryukyu Mura sign pointing the way.

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