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Music and history mix at "Tedako Festival"

Date Posted: 1999-07-24

History, culture, and entertainment wrapped up into one show is the best way to describe the opening day of the "22nd Urasoe City Tedako Festival." Happening this Saturday and Sunday, July 24-25, the festival offers everything you would expect from an Okinawan "matsuri," plus one of Okinawa's most unique cultural taiko drum shows.

A series of events, including a flea market, 3 on 3 basketball tournament, and traditional song and dance performances, will kick things off on opening day. A torch lighting ceremony is scheduled to take place at 1:30 p.m., and will be followed by children's "Eisa" dancing and the "Miss Tedako" crowning ceremony. There will also be plenty of "matsuri" food and drink available at various food stalls.

What makes the "Tedako Festival" so spectacular though, is the "Taiko Carnival," to begin at 5 p.m. Saturday. Taking place for the third consecutive year, the performance blends local history with the exceptional skills of "Chijinshu Wakatiida", one of Okinawa's best taiko drum groups. Lead by Yoshiji Mekaru, more than 1000 performers will put on a spectacular re-enactment of Okinawa's very first trade-envoy sent to China in 1372. Elaborate traditional costumes and numerous Ryukyu dancers also add to the atmosphere as Mekaru's taiko crew takes you back in time, to the days of the Ryukyu Kingdom.

Through the powerful rhythms of over 150 "taiko" drums, the characters of King Sato and his Royal Court are brought back to life during the one-hour spectacle of sight and sound. Mekaru said the show will give audience members a feeling for Okinawan history. "Urasoe was actually the site for the first throne of the Ryukyu Kingdom, and King Sato was the first king of the Ryukyu Islands to start trading with China."

That historic meeting between the two kingdoms lead to a prosperous exchange of culture and commerce that lasted for centuries. The relationship also gave Okinawa many of the island's unique cultural characteristics, which can still be seen today. "Our culture came mostly from China." said Mekaru. "We are much closer to China traditionally than we are with mainland Japan."

Audience members will also be able to watch both Okinawan karate and Chinese kung fu during the performance, and approximately 60 hand-made "shi shi' lions will be a part of the carnival. A reconstructed model of the original throne used by Ryukyu kings will seat Mayor Kenichi Miyagi, who will play the role of King Sato. The magnificent throne weighs over two tons and takes fifty people to carry. It is currently on display in the lobby of the Urasoe City Hall until Friday, July 23.

At 6 p.m. local musicians will give a free guest concert, which will be followed by more "taiko" drums together with a dramatic fireworks show, ending the first day of the festival.

Sunday will bring more fun with a "Kid's Sumo" tournament and a tug-of-war starting in the morning. Okinawan music will begin at 1 p.m., leading the way for a rock concert slated for 2 p.m. A citizen's parade, "eisa," and other Okinawan dances will round out the final day, culminating with the "kachashee" dance and fireworks.

If you are interested in Okinawan culture and looking to have a fun-filled day, make sure you see the "Taiko Carnival" this Saturday. Rock fans head on over to the "Tedako Festival" on Sunday. (This may be the last year the "Tedako Festival" will host the "Taiko Carnival," making this your final chance to see this event.)

The "Tedako Festival" will be held at Urasoe Sports Park, located near the Urasoe Civic Hall on Route 330. Parking will only be available at the Urasoe Port. From Camp Kinser, head north on Highway 58. After passing "Sane" and "Makeman" turn left at the next major intersection. From Kadena, head south on Highway 58 and look for the sign to the port on your right after passing through Ginowan.

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