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Beer, music and dance on tap at Koza Sports Park

Date Posted: 2006-08-18

The official event name is the All-Okinawa Eisa Festival, being held tomorrow through Sunday at Koza Sports Park in Okinawa City.

A more accurate depiction of the festivities at the 51st annual festival is fun in the sun, mixed with beer, music and lots of eisa dancers. Thirteen eisa troupes perform on Saturday, while another 15 show their stuff on Sunday. Even foreigners get into the act, performing Sunday under the banner of the Okinawa International Friendship Association at 3:50pm.

The All Okinawa Eisa Festival was first held in 1956, on what was then known as the Okinawa City Athletic Field. The pre-festival action begins Friday at 6pm, with eisa dance, a traditional Okinawan dance using taiko drums, pounding out the beat. Eisa is a mainstay of Obon, a Buddhist holiday that focuses on honoring Okinawan ancestors’ spirits. The Friday evening action runs to 9pm.

Saturday and Sunday the dancers begin in mid-afternoon, with Saturday dance beginning immediately after opening ceremonies. The melodious sounds of Okinawa will continue virtually non-stop, with grups each performing 20 minutes.

Saturday and Sunday the All-Okinawa Eisa Festival is open to the public 3~9pm.

Did we mention the beer? The Orion Beer Festival runs concurrently with the All-Okinawa Eisa Festival in Okinawa City, and yep! There’s a fountain of beer flowing! Orion Brewery sponsors a series of huge festivals across Okinawa each summer, including two in Ishigaki and Miyako Islands.

The beer festival kicks off Saturday with a grand opening celebration at 4pm. The stage opens and live music is under way just before 6pm with Panic 829. Kariyushi 58 follows at 6:40pm, with Asano Irei at 7:25pm. A Live Special: Ryukyu Chimudon Gakudan caps the musical evening at 8:30pm.
A gala fireworks display rounds out the evening at 9:30pm Saturday, and at 9:15pm on Sunday.

Live music on the Orion Beer Stage starts with Shaolong to the Sky at 5:30pm, followed by Funkist at 6:15p. Reverse performs at 7pm, and D-51 takes center stage for the main evening performance at 8:15pm.

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, purchasing the ever popular disposable cameras are available, for a price.

Getting There

The 51st 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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