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Ginowan hosts Hagoromo Festival this weekend

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2004-08-12

Okinawa’s long, hot summer continues and with it numerous colorful festivals being conducted across the island.

One of the largest, the 27th annual Ginowan Hagoromo Festival, is this weekend. Coming off a wet week with Typhoon Rananim passing through the region, fun in the sun promises festival-goers a terrific time.

The Ginowan Hagoromo Festival Committee says the festival will enhance friendship and harmony among local residents and visitors. The festival is Saturday and Sunday at Ginowan Kaihin Park, located next to the Okinawa Convention Center.

Opening ceremonies take place on the outdoor stage beginning at 8 p.m. Saturday, followed by a dance contest. A live concert and fireworks will cap Saturday’s events. Sunday there will be formal festivities beginning at 4:30 pm, including Eisa dancing and a large fireworks display starting at 9:10 p.m. at Tropical Beach.

The festival topped the100,000 attendance mark in 2001, and continues to grow. The festival takes its name from an ancient Okinawan folk story that has been told for generations.

A main theme of the festival is “Kachashi,” a joyful Okinawan folk dance, very much alive to this day that locals dance on happy occasions. Especially in the countryside, one can see folks spontaneously join in kachashi with the accompaniment of sanshin and small drums. “Hagoromo” or “Haninsu” in Okinawan dialect means a “celestial robe.” There is a legend involving “hagoromo” that is also known in a bit different variations elsewhere in Japan and around the world.

The legend normally goes like this; a man walking near a river came upon a beautiful robe he had never seen before, and he took it home and kept in a storage room. He then came back to the river and discovered a beautiful heavenly maiden bathing. After finishing her bath, she looked for her robes, but in vain. This seemed to disturb her, so the man came forward and talked to her gently, and invited her to his house, where he dressed the maiden with his own clothes.

Later they got married and were blessed with two children, a boy and a girl. One day, the maiden heard her elder child, a girl; sing a lullaby to her brother. The song was about the robe kept in the storage. Although she had a happy life she could not resist getting it back. She found her robe in the storage area, took it out and put it on, and immediately had to go back to heaven leaving her husband and two children.

The story usually ends here sadly, but the legend of “Hagoromo” told in Ginowan City continues as follows; the son became King Saion, a powerful lord in the 14th century who contributed greatly for building the Kingdom of the Ryukyus.

The name “Hagoromo Kachashi” was taken from this pleasant story and combined with the energetic dance of Kachashi. Those who missed Naha’s big Eisa festival last weekend will find this a good substitute to see a festival with participants clad in Ryukyu Kingdom era dresses.
Plenty of games, food and cold beverages are available at the numerous booths on the festival grounds.

The Cost

As with all festivals, entry is free. Spending is what you want it to be, and is driven by thirst and hunger levels, and the ability to resist buying souvenirs at the countless stands which ring the festival site.

Getting There

From northern military bases, travel south on Highway 58. Immediately after passing Camp Kitamae Gate, look for Convention Center signs and turn right. Convention Center and festival site are about three kilometers south. Coming from Camp Kinser and Naha, travel north on Highway 58. At signs for Makiminato and Convention Center, turn left. Site is about 1.5 kilometers away.

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