Okinawa Tourism Information:ExcitementoftheLargestEisaFestivalinOkinawa,theOkinawaZentoEisaMatsuriFestival,PartIII.FinalDay:The63rdOkinawaZentoEisaMatsuri

Excitement of the Largest Eisa Festival in Okinawa, the Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri Festival, Part III. Final Day: The 63rd Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri

post : 2019.06.16 08:00

The last in this series will follow the final day of the Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri! The third and final day is the greatest Eisa festival for all to see Eisa performances by groups participating from across Okinawa, all the way from the southern region to the north, and including some of the outer islands. Every year, the participating groups change a little, and that’s another charm of this great event! To make sure you get the most out of the final exciting day of the event is to get there early. The performances begin at 15:00, the same time and place as the second day, and there are still seats around the performance area at the start, so if you get to the venue early enough, you can secure good seats. The opening performance on the last day of the event last year was Eisa by local school children (in 2018, the group was from Moromi Elementary School) and they were so sweet and cute! Then came the Eisa performance by the Okinawa City Women’s Association.

The sun’s rays are still very strong and the days are hot even at the beginning of September in Okinawa, so when you go to the festival, be sure you stay hydrated and sun protection like hats are an absolute necessity. The first of the Seinen Eisa started while the sun was still high in the sky, and they were Minamitobaru Seinenkai, a local Okinawa City youth group. Their dynamic movements with the drumsticks were impressive and they danced to an original song, titled Minamitobaru Magiri.

Next to appear was Uruma City’s Ishikawa Ensa Preservation Society. Their performance consisted of a traditional style with only men beating on the small Shime Daiko drums, dancing the Teodori, and ringing the Sogu bell. The high pitched sounds of the Sogu was very unique and in the Teodori, they were using Zei and fans seen in classic Ryukyuan dancing. Their powerful movements like that of Kata in Karate was also very impressive. Their Ensa (or Eisa) performance collaborated both silence and movement, and their performance had a somewhat nostalgic appeal.

One of the characteristics of Okinawa Zento Matsuri is that in contrast to traditional Eisa, they always have one group that features a contemporary and creative style of Eisa. The creative Eisa was performed last year by Ryukyu Budan Shoryu Matsuri Daiko, a creative Eisa team based in Tokyo that performs both domestically and internationally. In their performance, they collaborated with the dance group Haru and Naha City’s Asato Hata Gashira Seinen Dan group. They danced to original, up-beat music, like songs by Yukito Ara (who hails from Ishigaki Island), and their performance was both cheerful and entertaining.

Another fresh Eisa group participated for the first time last year, too. They were called the Ryukyu Kajimaya, a young group made up mainly by students from the Okinawa International University, as well as other universities and technical schools within the prefecture. Their style of Eisa dancing and the accompanying music were mostly all wonderuful traditional styles, and their youth and vitality was refreshing to see and their performance made me want to cheer them on.

Next came a group that truly represents the style of traditional Eisa, the Heshikiya Seinenkai (East) (of Heshikiya, Uruma City). The costumes they wore were traditionally casual, in deep blue Kinagashi kimono, wearing white cloth on their heads, and dancing in bare feet. The instruments they used were only the small, hand-held Paranku drums. The graceful Teodori dancing and the strong presence of the Nakawachi (Chondara) group and the Hanto Katamiya (the sake bowl carriers) were interesting to see. The light sounds of the Paranku drums and the whistling by the Nakawachi left such an impression that I can still hear them now. Their Eisa performance was very solemn and made me feel that I was seeing the original Eisa performance from the ancient past.

Next group was the local Goeku Seinenkai (from Goeku, Okinawa City), a group with 100 members. Their powerful Gutei Eisa was fantastic, with displays of not just strength but also with soft touches that really brought excitement to the audience.

Takashiho Seinenkai, a group from Yomitan Village performed next. Their performance featured the style of Unmame, a traditional performance art of Takashiho, where the performers raise their legs up high and stand on their toes as they strike their drums. The performance was excellent!

Eisa by the Senbaru Eisa Preservation Society from Kadena Town was also very unique. The dance group was made up of only male dancers that performed a powerful style of dance with Karate moves and other movements that were full of spirit.

The Nanzato Seinenkai from Kin Town began with a slow tempo song, Nuchibana, and towards the end of their performance, the tempo picked up and raised the excitement in the crowds. The last song was Toshin Doi, where the performers jumped high while carrying the big Odaiko drums. The sounds of the gong and their drums made their performance distinctive.

When the very popular Sonda Senenkai (of Sonda, Okinawa City) entered, the crowds roared with excitement! Before Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri, it used to be called the Koza City Eisa Contest/Zento Eisa Contest (from 1956 to 1977), and since that time, Sonda Seinenkai was one of the top ranking groups. Today, even after the competition turned into a festival, they are still well-known as one of the best contemporary Eisa performance groups. Their performance from the Odaiko drummers up front, and the smaller Shime Daiko drummers, all the way to the back to the Teodori dancers, their formation and movement were amazingly in unison. They were marvelous!

The Ginowan Senenkai participated from Ginowan City. Their Eisa style was a combination of Shima Eisa, a traditional style that has been passed down since the Meiji Period (1868 to 1912), and Shinsetsu (four songs) that were taught to them in 1967 from the present Akano district of Uruma City. The changes in their formation was beautiful and they’re a must-see.

The last performers on the final night was the Yamazato Seinenkai (of Yamazato, Okinawa City), highly popular for their powerful male Eisa dance. This groups presents a highly intense performance with Kata moves from Karate performed by their robust members, and they boast a large and strong following. They’re definitely one of the best Seinen Eisa groups in Okinawa City.

The finale is, of course, the Kachashi dancing which saw many people in the audience jumping in to celebrate, bringing the whole venue together as one. I don’t think I was alone in thinking that I really wanted to come back again next year when I saw all those people dancing and having such a wonderful time. Okinawa Zento Eisa Festival is held every year, so start planning ahead to be there for this great and exciting event.

Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri (Festival) Official Website:    

Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Hiroshi Kuwamura