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- Excitement of the Largest Eisa Festival in Okinawa, the Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri Festival, Part II. Second Day: The 40th Okinawa City Seinen Matsuri
Excitement of the Largest Eisa Festival in Okinawa, the Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri Festival, Part I. First Day: Michi Junee Procession
post : 2019.06.09 06:00
Normally, Eisa drum dances are performed during the period of Kyu-Bon, or Obon according to the lunar calendar (which was August 23-25 in 2018). However, on a weekend after the three-day Obon performances, various Seinenkai or youth groups from different areas gather in Okinawa City, the mecca of Eisa, to take part in the annual Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri, the largest Eisa festival on Okinawa. The festival marked its 63rd in 2018 and was held over three days, from August 31 (Fri) to September 2 (Sun), and welcomed over 3.4 million spectators from Okinawa and beyond. With the population of Okinawa being 1.42 million, the number of spectators was equivalent to approximately 40% of the local citizens, all gathering in Okinawa City for this amazing event. So what attracts people to Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri? Continue reading this report on last year’s 63rd Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri with photos of all the Eisa groups that participated!
The three days of the Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri are: Michi Junee procession (also performances at a fixed venue) on the first day, Okinawa City Seinen Matsuri (last year was its 40th event), and the final day is the Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri (the 63rd event in 2018). So let’s begin with the first day, the Michi Junee, which is a procession of Eisa performers on the road, just like the local Eisa performances in the communities during the Kyu-Bon period. Since local performances are held in the narrow roads within the neighborhoods, the formation of the dancers are adjusted accordingly, but the Michi Junee for the Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri is held in the area of the Goya Intersection in Okinawa City, with the main area being the Koza Gate Street and with all of the four vehicle lanes closed to traffic! The performances were amazing!
On Koza Gate Street, besides the Michi Junee area (which started at 19:00), there were also two fixed performance areas (which started at 18:30). In this article, I’ll introduce the groups that performed at the Michi Junee area. The first group was the Sonda Seinenai (of Sonda, Okinawa City). You could feel the anticipation of the crowds, and the feverish excitement in the air was overwhelming!
The Eisa Michi Junee continued at the heart of Okinawa City, known as “City of Eisa”, with the Murokawa Seinenkai (of Murokawa, Okinawa City) up next. That night, people were able to enjoy performances by nine groups at the Michi Junee and seven groups each at the two fixed areas, for a total of 23 performance groups!
The lighting at the performance areas consisted of street lights and the bright lights of the car carrying the musicians. The atmosphere was truly that of the Kyu-Bon Michi Junee in the communities. The third group that performed was the Ikehara Seinenkai (from Ikehara, Okinawa City).
Following that came the Goeku Seinenkai (of Goeku, Okinawa City)! Since both sides of the street were packed full with people, it wasn’t an easy task to walk about, but the great thing about Michi Junee procession is that the performers dance their way along the street, so you can see pretty much all of the performances by staying in one spot.
The Michi Junee didn’t just present Seinenkai (youth groups) from various communities in Okinawa City, either. The following group was Ojana Seinenkai, special guests from Ginowan City! In their repertoire, they had Hanjo Bushi to entertain the crowds.
Next came Minamitobaru Seinenkai (of Minamitobaru, Okinawa City). It’s fantastic that all of this entertainment is absolutely free of charge even with so many performance groups and so much to see on the first day. (Along with the free area, there’s also a paid admission area offering a view from an elevated area on the second and third days.)
The group that came next was Nakanomachi Seinenkai (of Nakanomachi, Okinawa City). They were the key performers the following day, at the 40th Okinawa City Seinenkai Matsuri on the second day of the festival, and performed last which heightened the excitement!
In the later half of the procession came Kubota Seinenkai (of Kubota, Okinawa City)! As the finale of the first night approached, the voltage of excitement among the performers and the spectators reached the max! I captured this excitement using the slow shutter speed.
The last performers on the first night was Teruya Seinenkai (of Teruya, Okinawa City). Together with the performers, there were small children dancing their hearts out, too. There were other small children among the audience that were dancing along to their favorite Seinenkai groups as well. They were so good! This is how the spirit of Eisa is being passed down the generations!
(*Next article will be on the 40th Okinawa City Seinen Matsuri.)
Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri (Festival) Official Website: http://www.zentoeisa.com/
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Hiroshi Kuwamura