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All-Island Eisa Matsuri celebrates 44th year

By: Kotoko Chinen

Date Posted: 1999-08-20

The “Okinawa City All-Island Eisa Matsuri,” to be held at the Koza Athletic Park in Okinawa City on Saturday August 28 and Sunday the 29th, marks the 44th time the annual event has been held. And with it, its reputation as one of the major Eisa dance events on the island continues.

As in years past, as many as 12 Eisa-dance groups from all over the island will take part and perform a variety of Eisa dances at the event. This year, moreover, two mainland groups will participate, one from Yonezawa City in Osaka and the other from Toyonaka City in Yamagata. Both cities enjoy sister-city relationships with Okinawa City.

The two-day event will begin each day at 3 p.m. and runs through to about 10 p.m. Fireworks are scheduled after the last performance for both days.

As a curtain raiser to the Eisa Matsuri proper, an Eisa dance parade will take place Saturday on Gate 2 Street in Okinawa City. The parade will kick-off at 9 p.m. and such is its enormous popularity throughout the country, will be telecast live on NHK TV, Japan’s national broadcaster.

During the summer, a number of "Eisa-dance" performances can be seen at many festivals around the island. Those new to the island, and even those who have been here for a while and have had an opportunity to experience cultural events during the summer, may wonder what this "Eisa craze" is all about.

Eisa dance, or simply “Eisa” for local residents, was originally performed as part of a prayer for the spirits of the ancestors. In Okinawa, as well as in the mainland, it is believed the spirits of ancestors come back home during Obon, a day on which memorial services are held. Eisa originally started as a dance to escort the ancestors' spirits back to their resting place on the last day of Obon.

Nowadays, Eisa has become such an essential part of an Okinawan summer that many young people are enthusiastically taking part in this performing art.

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