Updated： November 06, 2018
Eisa Festivals: Okinawa's uplifting Obon dances!
Okinawa's Eisa Festivals attracts 300,000 visitors every year! They are part of the Obon celebrations happening everywhere in Japan, but with a distinct Okinawan flavor.
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Eisa festivals are held all over Okinawa towards the end of the summer. They consist of eisa dancing, which is a folk custom from Okinawa that is performed to honor the spirit of ancestors during the Bon season. Other regions perform dances on that occasion but Okinawa's eisa has evolved in a unique way. It is now considered a flagship element of the prefecture's culture.
Three types of drums are used by the performers to accompany their dance. The largest one called odaiko (pictured above) is played held down on one thigh. To enjoy eisa, notice the skills and the beautiful handling of the drum sticks. The strains of the traditional Okinawan sanshin (a three string instrument) sets the rhythm for the the drums.
The eisa dance is performed in circles or in lines, typically by groups of 20 to 30 young men and women. The chants and the loud beats of the drums bring up the excitement and the enthusiasm of the crowds gathered to celebrate Obon. Performances are uplifting and powerful.
Each community has its own attire. If you attend this festival, pay attention to the elaborate details in the costumes and notice how they are different from the kimonos worn in the rest of Japan.
All-Okinawa Eisa Festival
The All-Okinawa Eisa Festival is the largest on the island and features some of the most amazing performances. It also happens to be held concurrently with the Orion Beer Festival, so you are encouraged to enjoy refreshing local beer while enjoying the festivities!
When and Where?
Eisa Festivals are held from mid-August to early September all over Okinawa. This is a great time to visit the island!
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