Okinawa Tourism Information:3IntangibleFolkloreCulturalAssets(TraditionalPerformingArtsinKitanakagusukuVillage)

3 Intangible Folklore Cultural Assets (Traditional Performing Arts in Kitanakagusuku Village)

post : 2016.06.09 07:00

Kitanakagusuku Village in Central Okinawa is the home of the World Heritage Nakagusuku Castle Ruins, and there are 14 areas in the village including Ogusuku, the area of flowers and art.

“Chunjun Nagari,” one of the representative songs for Eisa, was set in the village. Also, Eisa is popular in this village. “Youth Eisa Festival” is a must-see, but there are more traditional performing arts in Kitanakagusuku Village other than Eisa.

Seasons to perform traditional performing arts of Kitanakagusuku Village on each area are differing. But, there is an opportunity to watch all them all at one time. It is “Villagers’ Performing Arts Festival.” It holds on the first day of “Kitanakagusuku Festival (late November),” and there are 4 intangible folklore cultural assets in the village, and here are 3 of them! 


First is “Akakina Bushi” in Shimabuku area.
It is believed that this was originally a love song which was made in Akakina, former Kasari Town in Amami Oshima. Later, it spread to Okinawa during Ryukyu Dynasty era. However, this song does not exist in Amami Oshima, and the real origin of the song is unknown. 

Presently, “Akakina Bushi” is performed only in Shimabuku (Kitanakagusuku Village) and Ie Island. The characteristic of “Akakina Bushi” in Shimabuku is that it features the form of karate and makes it look like a masculine dance for young men.

It is a cool male dance with sharp move, and it is designated as Kitanakagusuku Village’s intangible folk cultural asset in 2002.

This is “Lion dance in Kishaba,” and its origin is also unknown.
It has been performed at a stage in Kishaba area on July 17th after Bon festival to expel evil spirits, and it has been handing down to the next generation in the area.
The dance is designated as Kitanakagusuku Village’s intangible folk cultural asset in 1982. 

First, one ringer grabs bells on his both hands to guide the lion. The sounds of bells have high and low sounds, and both sounds create tense feeling by lapping over repeating sanshin and drum accompaniment.

Sometimes the lion gets close to the audiences. When the lion pretends to bite you, you do not to worry about it because it helps you to expel the evil!

And, the most impressive performing art is “Fenushima” in Atta area.

Wearing long red hair down, and the performers’ appearance look like unidentified ethnic group. They do not look like Okinawan people.

It consists 2 kinds of dance: dance with hands & stick dance. It starts from dance with hands, but the song which is sung during the performance is a mystery.

Here are the lyrics of the song;

“♪Tauchun natai tauchun tauchun natai yo
Cho oyoti meutan ie chou hatai
Futeyo fiyo fitai fitai chinsan
Chinton yoosai chusai yo suina”

Unfortunately, the meanings of the lyrics are unknown.

Even though the song is veiled in mystery, it is designated as Kitanakagusuku Village’s intangible folk cultural asset in 1980. 

The stick dance with sticks (golden rings on tips of them), it is a must-see when performers dance and jump for about 1m / 3.3ft.

Fenushima is also performed in Asato (Naha City), Igei (Kin Town), and Nagahama (Yomitan Village), but the one in Atta is originally introduced from Chibana (Okinawa City), and it developed on its own by adding the stick form of Tsuken Island. However, its origin and also how and when it came down to Okinawa Main Island is still a mystery. 

Presently Fenushima is performed for Obon festival and celebrations, but there is a problem on lack of successors in recent years. 

This time, 7th graders in Kitanakagusuku Village learned about Fenushima as a part of integrated study, and they performed it for the junior high school art show. Some of the selected students entered for “Kitanakagusuku Festival,” and the way they danced very hard along with adults (participants) attracted the audience.

After the students’ performance, members of Atta Preservation Association gave a speech at the stage and said;

“These students learned the dance in a short period of time. They are more like excellent young men than junior high school students. Please give it up for them.”

Then the audience gave applause to them immediately.

Those 7th graders including Shiroma who is from Atta area told;

“We were nervous first because there were many audiences at the venue, but we are glad that we did our best performance.”

After they made a comment, locals gave them warm hands. 

After the touching moment on this day, this experience might motivate young people like them to take over the local tradition. 

I was able to witness the touching moment when the traditional culture was handed down to the next generation at the local festival. 


・Kitanakagusuku Village Official Website: (Japanese) 

Okinawa CLIP photo writer Hiroshi Kuwamura (KUWA)