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All eyes turn to Eisa on Kokusai

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2009-07-30

The unique sounds of Okinawan drums mix with traditional street dance this weekend as Naha City’s annual Eisa festival attracts upward of 10,000 performers.

Literally hundreds and hundreds of drums will set the beat for festivities that begin at 6 p.m. tomorrow and build to four and half-hour crescendo on Sunday afternoon with the Parade of 10,000 Eisa Dancers on Kokusai Street in downtown Naha City. It all begins with the two-hour Eisa Ashibina in front of the Palette Kumoji, while a second event in front of the Naha Tenbus Culture Building starts at 7 p.m.

Matsuryu Drums begin the Palette Kumoji program, followed by Naha Drums, Nakagusuku Drums, Maishin Genshin at 7:20 pm. And I-ma Drums wrapping the show. At Tenbus, Matsuru Drums performs at 7 p.m., followed by Shuri Drums and Naha Drums.

Two events fill the late afternoon and early evening hours Saturday. A 10,000 Eisa Dancing Pre-event takes place beginning at 5 p.m. in front of Palette Kumoji, while three drum and dance groups perform at Tenbus beginning at 7 p.m. Ten groups perform at Palette Kumoji in 20-minute intervals, beginning with Matsuryu Drums. Kids Club Chibikko Land will be next followed by Nakagusuku Drums, Shuri Drums, Ninufa Drums, Shoryu Drums, Kagamizu Drums, Yonabaru Town Itarashiki Drums, Kin Town Nakagawa Drums and Ryukyu Koku Drums.

The big event, though, is the Sunday afternoon parade that kicks off at 1:30 p.m. on Kokusai Dori. The 10,000 dancers, forming close to 200 marching drum units, take more than a half-hour to cover the mile-long parade route as they stop to perform mini shows every few hundred meters. Towns and villages participating include Tomishiro, Ishigaki, Urasoe City Itoman City, Kin Town, Katsuren Town, Ogimi Village, Gushikami Village, Kadena Town, Ginowan City and Gushikawa.

Elsewhere on Okinawa this weekend, the 31st Nago Mayor’s Cup Haarii Festival takes place Sunday, with festivities getting under way at 8:30 a.m. Dragon Boat races are at the heart of the festival, taking place at Nago Fishing Port.
The Kumejima Festival is Saturday and Sunday at Kumejima Fureai Park, a 20-minute airplane ride from Naha International Airport. The festival runs 5:30 ~ 11:30 p.m. each day, including live shows on the outdoor stage, Eisa, food venues and nightly fireworks displays.

And for the beer lovers, the Orion Beer Fest 2009 takes place Sunday on Miyakojima. The Sunday afternoon and evening festival sponsored by Okinawa’s home grown beer brewery in Nago, will include beer, food, live music and a fireworks exhibition. Singer Beni, the duo Harvester, and the Kagihana Band will be performing.

Getting There

To Naha, travel south on Highway 58. The first opportunity in Naha to turn left to Kokusai comes shortly after passing Tomari Port and Tomarine Hotel. At the next intersection, turn left at the Roynet Hotel traffic signal. Kokusai is about one-half kilometer away. Three other left turns can be made at Matsuyama Crossing, Kumoji Intersection and Izumizaki. All are marked. Be assured traffic will be heavy, and we recommend parking farther from Kokusai Street itself and walking to the festival areas.


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