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Images of a Carnival

By: Kelly Smith

Date Posted: 1999-11-10

Okinawa City’s International Carnival brought color and celebration into the lives of the local population and tourists during the whole weekend. It officially started on Gate 2 Street with a ceremony that brought together several high-ranking officials from the city government, the US Consulate General, and the Kadena US Air Force Base.

Following a short tape-cutting ritual close to the intersection with Hwy 330, a crowd of interested people watched as a group of kids in color performed an opening “eisa” that drew a lot of applause. At the other end of the street, closer to Gate 2 kadena, many kids had fun kicking soccer balls and shooting basketballs into the hoops.

It seemed to be all fun on Gate 2 during both days of the big festival, as some 2000 drummers (including 40 Americans) came together in a giant “eisa” that engulfed all of Kuter Blvd on Kadena and the main street out of Gate 2. Suave modern sounds, coupled with traditional drumbeats of the Ryukuan soul, gave rhythm to synchronized gracious movements that the 2000 performers executed with indisputable dexterity.

Meanwhile, on the smaller BC Street down from Korinza Mall, live music blared all weekend from a small stage, as several amateur groups stepped on to share their talents with the public. More than mere talent, one religious group sponsored by the Kadena Community Church International brought with them pure light to the occasion. The young LIGHT Company (“Loving Intercessors Giving His Testimony”) was out there singing praises and sharing their Christian experience with several men, women and children – Japanese and foreigners alike. Their booth, set up very close to a Filipino food stall, became a major attraction for feasters, as they painted faces with signs of the cross, made balloon dolls for their guests, prayed for them and distributed tracts inviting them into Christianity.

Just up the street from the LIGHT Company’s overwhelming presence was the dark propinquity of a “Haunted House” that attracted Halloween celebrants into its tenebrous entrails. The Okinawa City festival therefore inadvertently produced an arena for a most interesting confrontation between heavenly and earthly forces. The winner of that battle may still be a debate only in the minds of the profligate.

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