Eisa of Old Bon in Okinawa
post : 2015.09.04 12:00
Last week marked “Kyu Bon (Old Bon)”* in Okinawa! Speaking of Kyu Bon, you can easily think of Eisa! Nowadays, Eisa has become a very popular traditional performing art which is commonly seen at events, wedding receptions, and athletic meets in addition to the Kyu Bon period. As Eisa was originated from “Nenbutsu Odori (a Buddhist dance chanting nenbutsu), it is best to see Eisa danced by local youth groups during the Kyu Bon season, isn’t it?
*“Kyu Bon (Old Bon)” is celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, and so differs each year.
Eisa of Kyu Bon takes place for three days from the 13th day of the 7 th month of the lunar calendar called Unkee (the welcoming day), the 14th day called Nakabi (the middle day), and the 15th day called Uukui (the send-off day). (This year it was on August 26th to August 28th of the western calendar.) Eisa dance is performed on a different schedule depending on areas of mainland Okinawa. In some areas, it is performed throughout three days while in other areas, danced only on Uukui. But all Niiseetaa (young people) of youth groups practiced very hard every night from more than one month of the Kyu Bon to give a spirited performance.
In order to welcome and send off the spirits of their ancestors from the other world called
“gusoo,” Eisa is generally performed during the night. The landscape of Eisa troupes performing michijune (Eisa dancing parade) through houses in communities every night is a feature of Kyu Bon in Okinawa. You can watch performances solemn yet full of young energy. Sometimes at one end and the other end of a community, different youth groups of performing michijune run into each other. The two groups might have “Eisa Orase (competing with each other by performing their own Eisa dances),” which is really worth watching!
This photo was taken during the Eisa performance by Kyan Youth Group in Kyan, Itoman City in the southern part of mainland Okinawa. In Kyan, their Eisa performance is held on Unkee and Nakabi in Kyan Heeranmee (Square in front of Agricultural Cooperatives) at 20:30. Since the venue and the time for the performance are already determined every year, you do not have to hang around the community to look for a performance. Kyan’s Eisa is recommended for those who would definitely enjoy Eisa during the Kyu Bon season. Of course, their performance is also awesome! After taking over the traditional Eisa from Yagena Youth Group in Uruma City, they developed it into their own style. A beautifully changing formation by dancers is just spectacular. It takes about 40 minutes by car from Naha Airport to Kyan, Itoman City. If you would like to see Eisa, I would definitely recommend you come and enjoy it in the Kyu Bon season!
On this weekend and the next weekend, the large scale of Eisa events are on the waiting list! Why don’t you come to Okinawa, the home of Eisa?
☆Eisa schedule from this date on（for 2015）：
・The 60th Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri (ALL OKINAWA EISA FESTIVAL)
Friday, September 4 to Sunday, September 6, 2015
・The 10th Uruma City Eisa Festival
Friday, September 11 to Sunday, September 13, 2015
・The 26th NAGO YOUTH EISA FESTIVAL
Saturday, September 12, 2015
(This article is on the festival held last year.)
☆In 2016, Kyu Bon falls on as follows:
・the 13th day of the 7 th month of the lunar calendar (Unkee)
→Monday, August 15 of Gregorian calendar
・the 14th day of the 7 th month of the lunar calendar (Nakabi)
→Tuesday, August 16 of Gregorian calendar
・the 15th day of the 7 th month of the lunar calendar (Uukui)
→Wednesday, August 17 of Gregorian calendar
Okinawa CLIP Photo Writer Hiroshi Kuwamura（KUWA）