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The Attractiveness of Big Festival /
Harvest Festival on Minami Daito Island
post : 2016.05.11 18:00
The most popular festival on Minami Daito Island every year is Big Festival / Harvest Festival. It holds on every fall (September 22nd & 23rd) and takes place at Daito Shrine. Local people who currently live in other cities and tourists visit the island just for the festival, so the flight to Minami Daito Island is almost full capacity. Additional flights are on service during this time.
The characteristics of this festival are floats, mikoshi (portable shrine), and Edo-style of sumo. These are parts of the program, and they cannot be seen much for the festivals in the other regions of Okinawa!
The 1st day of the festival starts around 15:00. A big parade takes place from in front of the village office to Daito Shrine.
Floats continue on the tips of a long rope that children pull. Each float is decorated showily, and each of them represents each region of the island. The view is spectacular!
Somebody play drums on top of float, and each region plays with different beat, so it is better to listen to them carefully.
And mikoshi. It is a rare scene in Okinawa, and everybody can get a brief glimpse of the good-old Edo culture including mikoshi. Also it is one of the attractive part of the harvest festival.
It is magnificent to look when people carry mikoshi and run up the stairs in the shrine! After the ritual, each mikoshi and floats return to each region, and the festival continues until the night.
The highlight of the final day is Edo-style of sumo. Isn’t it rare to hold it for the festival of Okinawa? By looking at sumo in Minami Daito Island, it makes me re-realize that it is not just a sport, but also a sacred ritual.
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Especially, not many people have an opportunity to listen to sumo jinku (song which will be performed for sumo match). First, each sumo wrestler performs sumo jinku at the shrine and starts a ring-entering ceremony.
Next, they surround an altar on the center of the ring and perform sumo jinku again. The way they perform is valiance and also celestial.
Each match is the knockout competition. Even though some could beat 2 – 3 wrestlers in a low, they usually get run out of energy. It is impossible to beat 5 wrestlers in a row if they did not have the guts to win.
Wrestlers’ (local youth) fighting spirits get the audience excited, and each match is the must-see.
Kesho-mawashi (belt for the champion) has renewed this year, and I was able to see it!
Adults tournament is wonderful, and the tournament for elementary school and junior high school students are interesting. Especially, we cannot miss the matches of the 9th graders (boys) and their fathers.
Since there is no high school on this island, every student who graduates from junior high school have to leave the island to go to high schools next spring. It would be a good memory for grown-up sons and their fathers who raised their sons to have sumo matches. I was very touched by watching the match even though I am not related to them.
Also, we cannot miss baby sumo. This is the ceremony to introduce newly born babies to people of the island and to pray for the healthy growth of babies. Fathers put their babies on the piled soil on the center of the ring, and babies win when they cry. This is a scene that would cause anyone to smile at the festival.
After all the Edo-style of sumo matches are over, Okinawan-style of sumo (shima) matches start.
Sand is spread on the ground for shima instead of setting a ring, and one wins when the counterpart’s shoulder touches the ground. Wrestlers wear uniforms like judo wears instead of mawashi (belts for sumo wrestlers), and wrestlers grab each other’s belts from the beginning of matches. Shima is also interesting to watch.
And, entertainment time starts in the night time! Audience can enjoy the performance of Okinawan folk song and Daito Daiko. It is originated from taiko of Hachijo Island in Tokyo where explored Daito Islands. Daito Daiko is drummed with pulse unlike the other types of Okinawan music, and the characteristic of Daito Daiko is that 2 people play drum on both sides, and 1 plays with improvisation.
This time, guests from Hachijo Island and Daito Daiko performed together on stage!
Audiences dance kachashi in the end of the program, and both locals and tourists became one!
It is fun to watch Minami Daito Harvest Festival, but it is more fun when you became a part of it. A tour to participate the festival is conducted every year, so you can enjoy more by carrying floats or meeting with people on each region of the island.
Ojariyare (welcome) to Minami Daito Island!
Inquiry: Minami Daito Shoji
*Contact the company above to get the information on the tour to Minami Daito Island.
Okinawa CLIP photo writer Hiroshi Kuwamura (KUWA)