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Marines enjoy local Eisa festival

Date Posted: 2004-08-05

NAHA, OKINAWA, Japan — More than 120,000 people, enduring 90-degree heat, occupied Kokusai Street to take in the sights and sounds of the 10th Annual 10,000 Eisa Dance Parade here Aug. 1.

Approximately 4,000 drummers marched and danced from the north end of Kokusai Street to the south end during the largest Eisa festival on Okinawa. The drummers periodically stopped at points along the street to perform for the onlookers, including the U.S. service members in attendance.

“I have always been interested in Japanese culture since a very young age,” said Lance Cpl. Shina Smith, helpdesk technician, customer support branch, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler communications. “I hadn't seen much during my time on Okinawa. I was invited (here) and thought it would be a good opportunity to go to an event like this before I left the island.”

The Eisa festival was a new experience for many U.S. service members in attendance.

“It was awesome, like an all-day party,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel Floyd, administrative clerk, administration support branch, base communications. “I enjoyed the energy and the modern and traditional outfits, and I was amazed at the shear enthusiasm of the participants.”

The Eisa festival was also a good reason to get out of the barracks and off the base to take in some of the local culture, according to Floyd.

“It is great to experience the various cultures we sit right by, as well as get a love and respect of their country,” Floyd said.

As Eisa groups finished their march down Kokusai Street, they stopped to pose for group pictures. Several of the groups went on to perform in the Palatte Kumoji, a large area in front of the Ryu Bo department store at the south end of Kokusai.

Some of the featured performances at the Palatte Kumoji included a Kobudo demonstration, which is a display of martial arts weapons and fighting techniques, and a show by the Naha City Drummers.

The parade and performances at the Palatte Kumoji were the culmination of a week- long series of events. The week kicked off July 25 with a series of various performances on and around Kokusai Street. Children performed Kobudo and Eisa shows July 30 for Children’s Day. The next day, several local youth organizations performed dance and drum shows followed by a theater performance.

“I like the festivals that they have in Japan,” Smith said. “You will not see something like this back in the states. Going to events like these give you a better understanding of some of the many cultural traditions that differ from America.”

For Floyd, his first taste of the Okinawan festival gave him an appetite for more.

“I was amazed at the participation and endurance of the members in the parade,” Floyd said. “I did not get enough of this (experience) in the time I had.”

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