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Shuri Village Celebrates Culture Day with a Spectacular Parade

Date Posted: 1999-11-13

Shuri Village celebrated Culture day last week with a variety of events promoting its art and culture. The highlight of the day was an elaborate parade of dancers, musicians and children that marched through the surrounding village of Shuri Castle. The parade presented a perfect blend of both ancient ceremony and costume along with modern Okinawan culture.

November 3, Culture Day, is a national holiday that was established in 1946 when the present Constitution of Japan was officially adopted. The date was made into a holiday two years later, to commemorate the event. The idea of Culture Day is to foster the ideals of the Constitution--the love of peace and freedom--through cultural activities.

On Culture Day at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, the presentation ceremony of Order of Culture Awards is held. The Emperor personally presents the awards—in the shape of an orange plant with a light purple cord—to those who have made outstanding contributions in the fields of science, art, or culture.

This year in Shuri village, Culture Day festivities began with a parade led by a group representing an ancient royal procession. The “royal” caravan was clothed in Japanese costumes ancient times. They carried an ornately decorated chair that was used to carry the emperor in ancient times. The “Emperor’s chair”, with its influence taken from Chinese culture, was beautifully painted in red and Gold. Shortly after the passing of the Emperor’s chair, a smaller and less decorative chair of the Empress was carried through the parade.

Thousands packed the streets to watch the show unfold. Natsumi Taba, one of the spectators, who is also a local resident, goes to the Shuri Festival every year to watch the parade. When asked what she thought of the festival, she said, “I always enjoy myself on Culture because it is a lot of fun. This year, the costumes are so beautiful!”

Following the royal procession, each of the 18 “blocks” or “cho” of the Shuri Village carried ornate flags (Hata Gashira) attached to a large stick of wood to emblematize each section’s uniqueness. When the parade stopped at each corner, the flags were raised into the air and pushed up and down in rhythm with the Taiko drums playing in the background.

Also included in the parade were musicians from local high schools, “Eisa” dancers and various international groups. The costumes were diverse, as were the colors. Many were dressed in traditional clothing unique to Okinawa - from kimono made of “Bingata” to Ukata made of “Katsuri” - while performing graceful dances. Children largely participated in the events, showcasing their Karate and Taiko drumming talents.

Meanwhile, the side streets were packed with curious local residents and tourists, enjoying an assortment of food dishes, ranging from soba to corn dogs. Behind every block, small performance groups and food tents could be found. By mid-day, the food tents become the most popular attraction behind the scenes. Lines began forming as hungry parade watchers swarmed the food stalls. Simultaneously, the students of the local Arts College sold crafts under tents and marched to sounds of their own music.

The streets were alive with music, people and laughter, well into the late evening hours. Loud Firecrackers and cheers were also part of the sounds of the festival. Those who gathered for the parade enjoyed not only a beautiful and colorful show, but also a wonderful community event. Truly, the spirit of peace and freedom was alive during the last Culture Day celebration in Shuri village.

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