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Enjoy Authentic Ryukyu Performance Arts Often Seen at Local Festivals, Available for Your Enjoyment Every Saturday Night, at Utuimuchi
post : 2018.09.16 12:00
Many of the festivals held in Okinawa are variations of harvest festivals. These Okinawan festivals are unique in how prayers and performing arts are dedicated to the gods that protect the local communities. The core of these rituals and ceremonies are the prayers, and it isn’t very common for non-locals to casually participate in them, but the dedication of performance arts is usually held immediately after the prayers are held with all of the people in the community, where songs, dance, and village plays are held and enjoyed. Both of these parts, the prayers and the performing arts, are held as part of the ceremony or festival “for the local communities” and “for the people that live there”. So, in that sense, it isn’t so easy for visitors to observe or take part in these events, especially because the dates in which these festivals take place are limited to certain days according to the lunar calendar.
Many visitors who are looking to see even just the performance arts dedicated to the gods in such festivals, or are wanting to attend regular performances of authentic Ryukyuan performance art, I recommend the “Ryukyu Geino (Ryukyu Performance Arts) Utuimuchi,” held every Saturdays in Okinawa City. “Utuimuchi” is an Okinawan word for omotenashi or hospitality and heartfelt welcome. And it is just that; welcoming and the doors are open for all who are looking to enjoy a heartwarming performance. Every Saturday night at Nanta-Hama, a Minyo (folk) Club in Koza (Okinawa City), there are two performances held at 18:00 and 19:45. (Held regularly on Saturdays until January 12, 2019.)
On the outer wall of Nanta-Hama in Koza, is a plaque dedicated to Mr. Tsutomu Takenaka, a non-fiction writer who frequented Nanta-Hama. Mr. Takenaka was also the instigator and driving force behind the Ryukyu Festivals that introduced Ryukyu folk music and arts to people in mainland Japan in the 1970s. Nanta-Hama is also where the popular Okinawan singers Aiko Yohen and Machiko Higa who have been active performers then and now. Performances at such a venue are specialists in the field of Ryukyu performance arts and new generation of performers. Visitors can enjoy various performances that are usually only seen at festivals and ceremonies, presented by professional performers.
Also, another remarkable point about Ryukyu Geino Utuimuchi is that each performance is arranged for the audience to fully enjoy the whole show, all the while maintaining the quality, professional standards. Normally, the classic Ryukyuan performing arts such as the dances at festivals dedicated to gods, are often over 10 minutes long for each piece. At Utuimuchi, the content and the quality is maintained, while the performances are more compact.
What’s great about this is that within the set stage time of 45 minutes, you can enjoy many performances, since each one is about 3 to 5 minutes. Normally, performances at festivals or class Ryukyu shows are about 2 hours long, but at Ryukyu Geino Utuimuchi, you can enjoy about 10 performances in the well-planned program.
The Utuimuchi performance starts with Yotsudake (4 minutes) just like many of the festivals, dedication performances, and classic shows do, and includes Hatomabushi (m minutes), another classic dance, Tancha-me (4 minutes), Kuroshima Kuduchi (3 minutes), and Higasa Odori (5 minutes) among others.
In the program is also the Karate Buyo (3 minutes). Karate originated in Okinawa and the Kata of Karate can be seen in the Ryukyu Buyo dances and other performance arts. And of course, what’s a Minyo Club without Ryukyuan songs? There is a Shima Uta singing performance (7 minutes) as well as a piece with Paranku drums (5 minutes) used in Eisa performances, too.
The finale of the program is the Kachashi dance, just like in the festivals and performances for various occasions in Okinawa. The audience are encouraged to join the performers for this merry dance, and don’t worry, the MC will give you a quick, introductory lesson on the moves, so dance away! Go and enjoy Ryukyu performance art!
Location: Minyo Club Nanta-Hama
Period: Saturday, August 4, 2018 – Saturday, January 12, 2019
Address: 1-15-2 Uechi, Okinawa City, Okinawa Prefecture
Performance Times: Every Saturday [1st Show] 18:00-18:45 [2nd Show] 19:45-20:30 (*Admission is for 1 show only.)
*No performances on September 8 and December 29.
*Performance times may change due to weather and other reasons. Please inquire.
Admission (for 1 show): 2,500 yen (includes 1 drink)
Special performances (limited to 4 days)
Location: Southeast Botanical Gardens Restaurant Peace
Dates: November 26 (Mon), 27 (Tue), 28 (Wed), 29 (Thu), 2018
Performance Times: [1st Show] 18:00-18:45 [2nd Show] 20:00-20:45
Admission: 6,000 (Includes admission to the Gardens, meal, and performance)
Telephone: 098-939-2555 (for inquiries)
*Inquiries (for tickets, etc.)
Okinawa City Tourism and Goods Promotion Association
Address: 1-1-1 Uechi, Okinawa City, Koza Music Town 106
Telephone: 098-989-5566 (POC: Namisato, Yamada)
*The rates given above are current as of August 2018.
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, KUWA