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Ryukyu history touted at Urasoe festival

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2009-07-16

Urasoe City’s annual celebration is not the largest festival on Okinawa, but it is akin to a county fair in midtown America and worth the visit.

The three-day Urasoe Tedako Festival kicks off tomorrow night on the city’s Yafuso Street, bringing the touch of summer pageantry, entertainment, music and, of course, food. It’s the 32nd year Urasoe City has staged the event, the city’s largest of the year, and city fathers are inviting the international community to bring their families and join in sharing a bit of Okinawan culture.

The Tedako Festival, with Tedako meaning ‘children of the sun’, pays homage to the king of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom. The ancestral King Eiso ruled in Urasoe, with the royal castle now in the Urasoe Castle Park. Only ruins of some walls remain of the castle today. The festival begins tomorrow with taking the fire from the sun at the castle ruins. Yafuso Street has been turned into a pedestrian zone for Friday’s pre-festival. Friday’s festivities begin at 5 p.m. at Yafuso Street, and run until 10 p.m.

Festival action takes place Saturday at the Iso Castle Park and the adjacent Urasoe Athletic Field, starting with the Tedako Fire Ceremony at 2 p.m., although the day’s first activities are a cultural entertainment performance beginning at 1 p.m. at Urasoe Tedako Hall. Sports activities take place throughout the afternoon at the Urasoe City Gymnasium. A musical concert starts at 6 pm. At the castle ruins, the Tedako fire lightning ceremony is at 7 p.m., a taiko drum festival at 7:30 p.m., and fireworks at 9 p.m.

A plus for many military families is the convenience of having a major festival virtually in the back yard. Urasoe’s centrally located near Camp Kinser, just south of Kadena Air Base and Camps Lester, Foster, Buckner and Futenma. Parking is more available than in many other festivals across the island.

Sunday’s another fun-filled day of performances, drums, races and of course, fireworks. The Tedako Haarii Tournament kicks off at 9 a.m. at the Makiminato Fishing Port. The port is just off Highway 58. If that’s not your thing, there’s plenty else taking place from morning to evening, beginning with the Urasoe City Mayor’s Cup children’s sumo tournament at 10a.m., a Summer Youth Festival at Urasoe Tedako Hall starting at 1 p.m., and a street dance contest at 10 a.m. at harmony Center.

The Urasoe Athletic Field is the center of soccer action all day, starting at 9 a.m., followed at 4:30 .m. by the youth Eisa fest. A Tedako Dance Fest starts at 5 p.m. at the athletics venue. Center Stage at 8 p.m. is the popular Okinawan pop group Diamantes, followed by a kachashii dance at 8:50 p.m. Sunday’s festival winds down, or up, depending on perspective, with a dazzling fireworks display.

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