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A Journey Around the Roots of Eisa
post : 2014.11.22 16:00
You can now see eisa (a traditional Ryukyuan dance) year-round, but the original eisa took place during the Bon Festival.
Bon starts on Ukui, the 13th day of the 7th lunisolar month, and goes until Unke, the 15th day of the 7th lunisolar month. During this three day period you can meet your ancestors.
Why is eisa danced during Bon? It is because it is Okinawa’s Bon Odori (dance).
When did this custom start?
If you go back into its origins you will stumble upon some things that are quite interesting.
The cool eisa clothes with the bold dancing style that we have now, surprisingly became like that after World War II.
The beginning of eisa is much older than that; it dates back to the beginning of the 17th century.
During the reign King Nei Sho (1564-1620) in the Ryukyu Kingdom period, a Pure Land Buddhist monk named Shonin Taichu (1552-1639) came to Ryukyu.
Shonin Taichu received permission from the King, who had accepted Buddhism, to spread Buddhism to the people of Ryukyu.
Taichu was from Fukushima where the Jangara prayer chant dance is famous but it is said that he did not teach it as a prayer chant dance.
So how did he spread the prayer chants that were in Japanese to the Ryukyuan people?
The chants that were told by Taichu were put into Ryukyuan as song by the head of Tomishiro Taira, Terashi Kamaguchi (Shikamaro Taira).
(The above picture is of in front of Shikamaguchi Tera’s grave/From “1st Shikamachi Festival”)
Additionally, a player of the sanshin, Tsumidaka Chinen, spread it through Ryukyu which I learned on March 30th at “Ryukyu and Eisa Lecture and Symposium” that was held in Katsuren, Uruma.
Some people say that Shikamaguchi Tera is a legend but at the Kin graveyard, facing the Tomigusuku City Central Public Hall, there is a grave and at the ruins of Taichu’s temple ruins in Matsuyama Park in Naha there is a monument to him.
On the first floor in Koza Music Town in Okinawa City, there is a museum called Eisa-ya where you can learn more about eisa.
You can enjoy eisa more if you explore the roots before its true season begins.
Naha Matsuyama Park
Address: 1-17 Matsuyama, Naha-shi
Tomigusuku City Central Public Hall
Address: 467-1 Taira, Tomigusuku-shi
105, 1-1-1, Uechi, Okinawa-shi
Okinawa Clip Photowriter KUWA