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Harmony, Kachashi keys to Hagoromo Festival

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2009-08-06

It is Ginowan City’s turn to host a festival this weekend, and you will be one of more than 100,000 spectators expected to participate.

The 32nd annual Hagoromo Festival is a harmony and friendship event sponsored by Ginowan City, exploding into fun at Kaihin Park, adjacent to the Okinawa Convention Center. This is the ninth year crowds are expected to burgeon beyond 100,000, with the two-day event again predicted to reach a new record. Opening Ceremonies at center stage are Saturday at 3:45 p.m., launching an afternoon and evening of music and dancing that includes Hagoromo Taiko drums, Eisa, dance performances and concerts.

Marching bands, Children’s Eisaa and adult dance get people warmed up, and admission is free. The traditional parade from the Convention Center’s Kankuimon Gate takes place starting at 5:50 p.m.. Take a camera, because the parade features Eisaa dancing and traditional historical costumes. Eisaa dancing starts the evening, at 6:50 p.m., leading into live shows on stage with Keiko Higa at 6:55 p.m., Johnny Ginowan Live at 7:40 p.m., and the Zanpz Taiko Drums at 8:05 p.m.

Sunday works out to be much of the same, but also includes a Hagoromo bull fighting tournament at Akamichi bull fighting ring in Ginowan. That event begins at 2 p.m. Another afternoon event at the main festival site is arm wrestling, also starting at 2 p.m.
The 21st annual Kachashi dancing contest fun kicks off at 4:55 p.m. and leads into the evening’s music. A 20-minute fireworks extravaganza fills the night skies beginning at 9 p.m. each evening.

A main festival theme is “Kachashi,” a joyful Okinawan folk dance, very much alive to this day. It’s one that locals dance on happy occasions. In the countryside, one can see folks spontaneously join in kachashi with the accompaniment of sanshin and small drums. “Hagoromo” or “Haninsu” in Okinawan dialect means a “celestial robe.” There is a legend involving “Hagoromo” that Okinawans have passed down through the generations.

It’s a simple dance, but one every Okinawan knows well. It is easy, and you can do it too. The basic is so simple, anyone can dance. All you do is lift your arms high into the air, turning your palms in and out. You’ll be amazed, as you look around while doing Kachashi, how elegant, alive and fun it can be.

The legend normally goes like this: a man walking near a river came upon a beautiful robe he had never seen before, and he took it home and kept in a storage room. He then came back to the river and discovered a beautiful heavenly maiden bathing. After finishing her bath, she looked for her robes, but in vain. This seemed to disturb her, so the man came forward and talked to her gently, and invited her to his house, where he dressed the maiden with his own clothes.

Later they got married and were blessed with two children, a boy and a girl. One day, the maiden heard her elder child, a girl; sing a lullaby to her brother. The song was about the robe kept in the storage. Although she had a happy life she could not resist getting it back. She found her robe in the storage area, took it out and put it on, and immediately had to go back to heaven leaving her husband and two children.

The story usually ends here sadly, but the legend of “Hagoromo” told in Ginowan City continues as follows; the son became King Saion, a powerful lord in the 14th century who contributed greatly for building the Kingdom of the Ryukyus.

The name “Hagoromo Kachashi” was taken from this pleasant story and combined with the energetic dance of Kachashi. Those who missed Naha’s big Eisaa festival last weekend will find this a good substitute to see a festival with participants clad in Ryukyu Kingdom era dresses.

Plenty of games, food and cold beverages are available at the numerous booths on the festival grounds.

The Cost
As with all festivals, entry is free. Spending is what you want it to be, and is driven by thirst and hunger levels, and the ability to resist buying souvenirs at the countless stands which ring the festival site.

Getting There
From northern military bases, travel south on Highway 58. Immediately after passing Camp Kitamae Gate, look for Convention Center signs and turn right. Convention Center and festival site are about three kilometers south. Coming from Camp Kinser and Naha, travel north on Highway 58. At signs for Makiminato and Convention Center, turn left. Site is about 1.5 kilometers away.

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