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The ultimate beer festival shares stage with Eisa

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2005-08-27

Burgers and fries. Fish and chips. Eisa and beer.

Some things absolutely go together.

That’s the way it is in Okinawa City this weekend as the 50th Annual All Okinawa Eisa Festival shares the Koza Sports Park. There’s a pre-festival Friday evening, with dancers on stage from 7~9:30pm, but the real action kicks off Saturday afternoon.

Thirty-four eisa groups will take to the stage across two days, filling the air with the melodious sounds of Okinawa. The first dancers appear at 2:30pm Saturday, immediately after opening ceremonies. The groups will each perform 20 minutes, with the Okinawa International Friendship Association group performing at 3:30pm. That’s the group featuring foreigners, including Americans.

Orion Beer Festival 2005 adds dimension to the weekend at Koza Sports Park. The local Okinawan beverage will be offered at discount rates to festival revelers. Orion Beer brewery stages several of the mammoth festivals each summer across Okinawa, including the popular southern Miyako and Ishigaki Islands.

The beer festival grounds open Saturday afternoon at four o’clock. Live bands Haola Hula Kalaakaua, Hora di Samba (O Paize Ki Ri Da Koza/Cabolleira Ryukyu/Lua Seia) and Pana will perform on stage throughout the afternoon and evening. A spectacular fireworks display lights up the night skies at 9:35pm.

Sunday the grounds open at 2pm. Live bands begin at 5pm with Smiley Blue Grass Band, Tomohara Chie Flamenco Studio, Trinity Club Band with Sister Kaya and Max. Kachachi, where everyone―including spectatorsding spectators―for the finale, is at 9:15pm both days. Fireworks will close the festival Sunday at 9:25pm.

More than 200,000 visitors have trekked to the joint festival in past years, and organizers expect nothing different this year, as the Eisa Festival celebrates its 50th year. Look for brilliant colored costumes and uniforms unique to each municipality performing. Some eisa groups are using the same costumes today they’ve used for more than 300 years.

The music follows drums and sanshin, an Okinawa three-string instrument, while dancers sway gracefully. Some dances work in various karate moves as Okinawa’s Uchinanchu heritage is spotlighted.

The Cost

Entrance is free, as it is with most festivals across the islands. The costs are primarily parking fees, food and beverages, and souvenirs. And for those who forget at home, the ever popular disposable cameras are available, for a price.

Getting There

The 50th Okinawa Island-wide Eisa Festival and Orion Beer Festival takes place at Koza Sports Park in Okinawa City. The location is just southeast of Kadena Air Base, between Gates 2 and 6. An annual recommendation for those with base privileges: park on base and walk to the festival grounds.

You’ll find walking is faster than driving through the dense crowds. For those who must drive, travel south from the northern camps and bases, getting off at Exit 4, Okinawa Minami. From the tollbooth turn right at the intersection and follow the crowd.

Traveling north on the Okinawa

Expressway, again, Exit 4. The drive is about 40 minutes from Naha International Airport.

By bus, a dozen bus lines (21, 23, 27, 31, 62, 63, 75, 77, 112, 113, 123, 263 and 290) approach the site, stopping at Sonda Bus Stop. From there, it’s ten minutes on foot. The busses are recommended, as they’ll bring you to the crowded area with minimum fuss.

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