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Dragon boat races and lots of local fun at Zampa Matsuri

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1999-06-19

If you do not like large crowds, but still would like to see some Okinawan culture, the "Zampa Matsuri" may be the answer for you. The festival is held annually along the beautiful coastline of Yomitan, just near the area's famous lighthouse on Cape Zampa. The event is family oriented, making it very relaxed and enjoyable. It provides an opportunity to experience an Okinawan "matsuri," and also gives you a chance to rub elbows with Okinawans.

Although this festival is much smaller than others around the island, there is still a wide variety of things to see and do. Scheduled for the two day "matsuri" are games, plenty of local music, and lots of food to enjoy. Kids will have a blast getting wet while trying to catch a live fish for a possible meal at home during the "Fish Catch" event! You may want to give the Potters wheel a spin and mold your own mug or bowl, or you can catch a demonstration on the local method of Yomitan weaving, known as "Hanaui." There will also be some local produce for sale, along with Yomitan's famous "Benni Imo" - the Okinawan potato that is known for its beautiful purple color. You can pick up some Yomitan pottery, and the kids can run around Zampa's huge park while you browse around.

All the festivities will begin at 2 pm on Saturday and will last throughout the day. Live entertainment will begin at 6:45 pm, and will include modern dance, as well as traditional Okinawan music.

If you enjoy the ocean, don't forget to bring your swim suit. Located right across the street is Zampa's beautiful beach. There is a nice area for swimming, and there are many different marine sports to choose from.

Sunday will kick off things with "Ha-ri-" (Dragon Boat) races at 10 am. "Ha-ri-" is a very traditional custom on Okinawa that can trace its roots back to China many centuries ago. The colorful boats are fun to watch, and you can join in on the cheering that goes on at the beach. All other activities, except for the "Fish Catch," will also be happening at the park area on Sunday as well.

To get there: Head north on Highway 58 from Kadena and turn left on to Route 6. go past Tori Station and continue going straight, following the signs to Cape Zampa. The festival will be located on your right at the park area. Closing times are at 9:30 pm on Saturday and 9 pm on Sunday.

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