JOURNEY TO ENCOUNTER OKINAWA’S UNIQUE CULTURE
Blending a variety of cultures, such as Chinese culture in ancient days, Japanese culture later and more recently American culture, Okinawan culture is called “Chanpuru culture” (chanpuru means “mix,” the same as in the chanpuru dishes).
Okinawa is also called the “islands of performing arts” and people enjoy music and dancing. “Ryukyu buyo,” Okinawa’s traditional dance, is performed to the accompaniment of music by instruments, including sanshin, koto, flute, drum, and Chinese fiddle. The elegant dance by dancers who wear red, yellow or other colorful dresses called bingata will fascinate you. Ryukyu buyo is divided into two types of dances: One is “Kyutei buyo” also called “Koten buyo” (classic dance), and the other is “Zou odori” created after the middle of the 19th century with themes of common people’s lives.
“Eisa” is another traditional performing art. It is a kind of “Bon odori.” “Obon” is a festival to worship ancestors and many events and dance festivals are held all over Japan in July of the traditional lunar calendar. During Obon, ancestors’ spirits are said to come back home from “the other world” for a brief visit. In Okinawa, people dance Eisa for the ancestor’s spirits to safely return to the other world again on the final day of Obon. “Michi-june,” or a dynamic parade of people beating drums, is a must-see event.
If you want to appreciate more Okinawan performing arts, visiting National Theatre Okinawa (Urasoe City) and Naha-shi Bunka Tenbusu-kan (Naha City) is recommended. National Theatre Okinawa holds Ryukyu buyo dance performances and Okinawan plays (For details and schedules, confirm on the website, etc.). You can enjoy Ryukyu buyo and Zou odori dance performances and also experience Ryukyu buyo dancing, Eisa, and playing sanshin at “Naha-shi Bunka Tenbusu-kan” (For details and schedules, confirm on the website, etc.).
In addition to the traditional music and dance, young people in Koza (Okinawa City), a town strongly influenced by American culture after WWII, have created a unique “Okinawan rock” under the direct impact of American rock music. Okinawa City is home to clubs with live music, including “Koza Music Town.” “Peaceful Love Rock Festival,” the largest rock festival in Okinawa, is held in Okinawa City every summer and attracts a lot of rock fans.