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Angama masks unique to Yaeyama Obon

Date Posted: 2008-08-08

Across Okinawa, the Eisa dance is performed by thousands of young people celebrating Obon.

On the prefecture’s southernmost islands, Yaeyama residents take the tradition a step farther, combining ceremonial dances that honor the ancestral spirits with a festival and parade. The parade marshals, or masters of ceremonies, wear Angama masks as the parade entourage makes its way through city and village streets, paying house calls to perform the ritual dances.

The masks are made in form of both male or female facial expressions, although the name Angama means woman, or elder sister. Citizens of Yaeyama believe strongly in the Angama masks, which they believe have special powers, although not evil ones. Those wearing the masks during the parade and dances are believed to be representatives of the spirit world. The masks are made of a soft, porous wood, easy to carve and then paint with a brown clay.

The Angama parades are organized by village, town and city leaders, taking place during the three-day Obon festivities that begin on August 13th.

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