The Okinawa Islands are the principal island group of the Okinawa Prefecture in Japan. The people, tradition, and culture are unique from their mainland counterparts. They have their own special rituals and customs different from mainland Japanese culture, giving them a strong heritage even to this day. I got to experience these things first hand while serving in the marines abroad. I found this to be one of the highlights during my year in Okinawa, Japan but the mainland also has so many other highlights.
One of Okinawa’s annual event in the capital city of Naha you should check out is the 10,000 Eisa Parade. Similar to the Naha Tug-o-War, this is an annual event that brings the whole city together in a time of excitement.
What is the Okinawa Eisa Dance?
The Eisa dance as it is called, it is an ancient Okinawan tradition unique to the culture. It’s purpose is for the Okinawan people to pay respect to their ancestors in the form of folk dance. This has been going on for the last several hundred years and it’s style was passed down by the younger generations. They show this by going through the streets of the city in mass festivities. This is by far one of the best events in the Naha I’ve attended while living in Okinawa in the American military.
Aside from the many performances the streets are filled with so many other things. Tasty street food, amateur art exhibits, you will have a fully immersive experience when visiting Okinawa during this event. There is no admission fee and all are welcome to line the streets in anticipation to watch. Make sure you followed what you need for Japan so you don’t arrive and have to then go back to your accommodations. If you are here during your Japan travel add this onto your itinerary.
The taiko, a broad range of japanese drums are brought out in the dozens, playing in precise rhythm. It is held on Kokusai Dori, the main street in the Okinawan capital of Naha.
When is the 10,000 Eisa?
This goes on for the entire week in the last month of August with many similar events building up to the main event of the 10,000 Eisa Parade. Because of how the world is today, changes have been made from the more traditional aspects you might find in older villages and towns. Local communities form the group of participants and any one can join. If you feel like showing off your skills you can sign up for a small fee. Practice of the routine usually takes 2-3 hours. And then you’re off to perform.
Separate groups of 15-30 people each do this throughout the day with their own unique music and style of movement for the social dance. A parade line stretching for miles just like you would see in your own city. Wearing clothes of bright multiple colors in yellows and purples and teal blues, the main attraction is of course the drums. The rhythms and movements show how lively this dance can be.
When the festival ends, the next party begins! Now it’s time for you to head off and explore the rest of the city. Naha is another perfect place to stay in Okinawa. You can find plenty of things to do out here in the city and really get the vibe of Japanese nightlife.
*With travel rules and regulations consistently changing you can possibly expect this festival to be reduced in size dramatically. However I still urge attendance as long as you are careful and follow all strict guidelines that the country adheres to. There is no reason you can’t enjoy yourself.