Okinawa Tourism Information:KozaGintengaiArcadeStreetisturningovernewleaf.GuinnessBookrecordlevelofgiantpaintwallartandexchangewithyoungpeople!

Koza Gintengai Arcade Street is turning over new leaf. Guinness Book record level of giant paint wall art and exchange with young people!

post : 2015.04.14 18:00

Do you know that there is a shopping street with the largest paint wall art beyond Guinness Book record in the central part of mainland Okinawa?

Koza Town used to be more prosperous than Naha as a town with the presence of the base.  Since the gate was closed to the public, the glory became the past. 

Recently, many projects have been getting attention to revitalize Koza Town as a town of eisa, town of music, and town of peace study. 

The city center has many shopping streets which have been loved for shopping and exchanges, and let you feel the nostalgic Showa period (1926-1989).

Gintengai is one of the shopping areas, which has been working on revitalization of the area using the power of art.

Huge scale wall paintings on the old buildings facing the main street were completed this year. 

The paintings that are about 170m long and about 1,550㎡big, about twice the size of Guinness Book record now get a lot of attention.

The theme of the paintings are the Japanese scroll painting style of history of Ryukyu.  The mural begins with the Ryukyu Kingdom era, and the motifs symbolizing each period from the battle of Okinawa, the long decades of US rule in the postwar period, and people’s life after reversion to Japan have been painted on the walls in a bright touch.

Gintengai has another thing that they are proud of.
It is “Koza Eiko (Glory) Festival,” which started in 2010. 

Students from Eiko Gakuen, which is one of the best shingakkou (school centered on preparing students to get into university) in Japan, and local people from Koza Shopping Arcade, Tourism Association, Chamber of Commerce, and volunteers collaborate to hold this festival.  This handmade festival is held every February and celebrated the sixth anniversary this year.

Through school excursions, young people in areas around Tokyo and the citizen in rural areas are connected to each other, which is a nationally unique project.

In the morning of the festival day, students “become apprentices” with professionals in the field to take a half day experience of cultures special to Okinawa such as Ryukyu Dance, sanshin, Ryukyu glassware, Chibana Hanaui, pottery art, shitter art, wood work, etc.  The result of their learning will be shown to people in the shopping arcade and the local communities at the festival in the evening.

In addition, there are “surprises” from high school students every year.
What kind of “surprises” students perform are discussed and decided among them.

This year’s surprises are the exhibit of a large scale kit of railway model to show the charm of the railway, which is a curiosity to Okinawan people, a short film telling a story of young man from the urban area who came to Okinawa for the first time and how he felt, and the photo contest for popularity ranking on pictures of Koza landscapes taken by students.   

The finale of the festival was the eisa performance.  Ageda Youth Group gave the guidance with feeling to students.

The spectators were deeply impressed with their dedication to dance to the music with serious looks, and an air of excitement at the venue reached a climax.

In order to hold the festival, students of the executive committee prepared the program and the order of the festival as they contacted the youth group of the shopping arcade and stuff of Koza Information Center.

“When senior high school students who visited Koza become college students, or enter the workforce, we want them to remember Koza and come back to visit us.”

The staff concerned in the youth group of the shopping arcade with such a wish keep accepting students.

 “I want them to experience what they can do now and to know there are times when things won't go the way they want.  Students can not only learn team play but also, by putting themselves in a different environment of Okinawa from that of the mainland Japan, feel something in common and something different and develop the judgement to decide by themselves based on information from different viewpoints.”

According to their teacher, Mr. Koizumi, who spoke of the purpose of the event, Eiko Gakuen also has a U.S. military base nearby and has problems of U.S. helicopters flying near the school during the classes. 

What do students think of this project?
I asked some of the students who made their performances at the venue.

One of the students who performed an admirable Ryukyu Dance, which was surprisingly high quality after just several hours’ practice said “It was hard but I could make it somehow.  The movement is so slow that it is noticeable if I make mistakes.  However, makeup and costumes look like the real things, which made me more and more hyper.”

He came to Okinawa for the first time since his family trip when he was an elementary school student.  He said, “People in Okinawa are very friendly and have warm heart.  It happens only in Okinawa that you can talk to someone new so casually.”
He felt real close to Okinawa.

One of the students who performed “Tinsagu nu Hana” and “Shimanchu no Takara” by sanshin, one of the traditional performing arts of Okinawa said satisfied,

“I, who had played the recorder only in my life could enjoy playing the sanshin.”

He bought sanshin as a souvenir, and said that maybe in the near future he would hold the sanshin and go to a sanshin class in his neighborhood. 

A student who joined Koza Graph, in which they take pictures of landscapes of Koza said “Viewing through the finder while walking around the town of Koza made the sceneries look different.” He won a prize at the contest for his photo of the old logo sign of SEIKO, a watch brand representing Japan.

He thought that the sign was awesome because instead of using watch even though SEIKO is a watch maker, it showed passing of time with the old sign.

It is true that we feel the change in the town when we walk around the town of Koza, which is different passing of time in a long span that buildings of temples and shrines show. 

Thanks to the projects of Guinness Book record level of giant paint wall art and Koza Eiko Festival, new several shops have opened in the shopping arcade. 

One of the shops is a café “Mori no Kissa SHINTA,” which opened in March, 2015.
The owner, Komori-san said, “I want my shop to be a place where people in the town gather like the communal well.”
The interior of the café was completed by “Hoshikuzu (stardust) Komuten (builder)” in Gintengai Shopping Arcade.
“Even small stardust get together, they will make stars coloring the night sky.”

That’s how the name of the builder came from.  Also, the Gintengai Shopping Arcade may become brilliant with a cluster of charms of everybody.

Koza Gintengai Street

Address: Teruya, Okinawa City, Okinawa (near Teruya Intersection)
(Inquiries about Koza Eiko Festival)

Okinawa City Tourism Association (Koza Information Center)
TEL: 098-939-4845

Okinawa CLIP Photo Writer  Nobuya Fukuda