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My Japan ~ Okinawa Eisa Festival


楽器の音色を聞いて、胸が高鳴ることはありますか?

私はエイサーの音を聞くといつも心がウキウキして地元沖縄を思い出します。

Do you ever feel your heart beating fast when you hear the sound of a musical instrument? For me, I am thrilled whenever I hear the sound of Eisa, the traditional Japanese drums and dancing from my hometown in Okinawa.


日本の南に位置する沖縄は、国内外から多くの観光客が訪れる小さな諸島です。独特な文化が根付いたこの島では、毎年お盆の時期に近づくと、三線に合わせてエイサーの練習をする音が毎晩どこからともなく聞こえてきます。

Japan’s southernmost prefecture, Okinawa, is a chain of subtropical islands visited by many tourists from both Japan and overseas. There is a unique culture on my Okinawan islands where you can hear the sound of Eisa practice along with the sanshin (three-stringed instrument) music everywhere, practised every night when it comes close to celebrating the yearly Bon Festival.

お盆とは、ご先祖様の霊を現世にお迎えして供養する行事のことです。

一般的に8月13日から4日間とされていますが、地域によって期間も風習も様々です。沖縄のお盆は旧暦の7月13日から3日間の旧盆なので、年によって日付が変動します。今年は8月31日〜9月2日に行われました。

Bon festival is an annual Japanese holiday, an event for commemorating one’s ancestors. It is believed that their spirits return to this world to visit their families during the Bon Festival each year. The Obon is generally observed for four days from 13th August, but the period and customs vary depending on the region. In Okinawa, the Bon Festival is observed three days from 13th July using the lunar calendar that was formerly used - hence the dates vary depending on the year. This year, it was held from 31st August to 2nd September.


たくさんのごちそうを用意し、ご先祖様を迎え、親戚一同集まってお祝いします。最終日の夜、夕食を終え、ご先祖様にお土産を供えるころになると、道じゅねーが始まります。三線の音に合わせてエイサーを踊りながら路地を練り歩き、夜通しでご先祖様を見送るのです。各地域では道じゅねーが終わると、特定の広場に集まり、エイサーの競演を楽しみます。

Each family prepares heaps of food and celebrates the arrival of their ancestral spirits with all the relatives gathered together. On the final night, after dinner, souvenirs are given to our ancestors and it is time to start the parade, called Michijune. Our ancestral spirits are then sent on their way to return to the spirit world by beating drums loudly and marching through the neighbourhood streets throughout the night. All the parades will then gather in a specific plaza and enjoy Eisa dancing group competitions.

エイサーは盆踊りのひとつで、旗頭、地方、太鼓踊り、手踊り、チョンダラーで構成されています。チョンダラーはピエロのように可笑しなメイクと仕草で観客を盛り上げる役でもあり、リーダーとしてチーム全体を支える役割も担っています。エイサーで使われる太鼓は大太鼓、締太鼓、パーランクーの三種類です。沖縄の各地域には青年会といわれるエイサー団体があり、それぞれの型が代々受け継がれています。

Eisa, one of the Bon dances, comprises of a team flag bearer, folk singers playing the sanshin, Eisa drum dancers, hands dancers, and Chondara clowns. The role of Chondara clowns, with peculiar makeup, is to pump up the spectators by comical dancing and inviting everyone to clap along. They also act as the leader of the Eisa groups keeping the formation of the performance in order and supporting the group members.

Eisa dancers use three types of drums, the odaiko (a large barrel drum), the shimedaiko (a medium-sized drum), and the paranku (a small hand-held drum).

In each region of Okinawa the youth associations have many Eisa organizations with each dance style being passed down through the generations.


CHONDARA CLOWNS

1. Eibo is warm, friendly and a leader type. As he gets excited about Eisa, you can hear him shout, "Yeah, sa, sa!" He was a former baseball player and is now a fan of Hiroshima Carps.

2. Little Sa likes to help others, but sometimes she acts a little goofy. You will see Little Sa carrying band-aids as another Chondara, called Takun, often gets into a lot of fights.

3. Sanaji seems to come out of nowhere and is ready to party when the Eisa Festival begins.

When he is given Shima, Okinawa traditional alcohol, he is in 7th heaven!


OKINAWA EISA MATSURI

6月から9月までがエイサーシーズンで、この時期には沖縄各地で開催される夏祭りでエイサーを見ることができます。特に有名なイベントは「沖縄全島エイサーまつり」と「一万人のエイサー踊り隊」です。各青年会が自分の集落のエイサーに誇りを持って、魂を込めて踊る姿は圧巻です。

今年はコロナウイルスの影響でほとんどのお祭りやイベントが中止になってしまいましたが、伝統ある特別な祭りはこれからもずっと続くことを信じています。

The Eisa season is from June to September, when you can see many Eisa performances at Bon Festivals and summer festivals held throughout Okinawa.

The most exciting Eisa events of the year are the Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri (The All-Okinawa Eisa Festival) and Ichiman-nin Eisa Odoritai (The 10,000 Eisa Dancers Parade). With mind-blowing performances members from each youth association dance their community's distinct Eisa with pride and a lot of soul.


Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri (The All-Okinawa Eisa Festival):

The All-Okinawa Eisa Festival is held on the first weekend after the lunar-calendar Bon Festival every year in Okinawa City. It is one of the largest festivals in Okinawa. Youth groups selected from all over the prefecture gather together to perform Eisa. Local youth groups rehearse over and over from early summer and share the spirit of the island regardless of their age on the day of the festival. The finale truly paints the Okinawan summer with "Kachashi " folk dance and fireworks.

https://www.visitokinawa.jp/information/eisa

https://www.visitokinawa.jp/events/okinawa-zento-eisa-matsuri


Ichiman-nin Eisa Odoritai (The 10,000 Eisa Dancers Parade):

"10,000 Eisa Dancers Parade" is an annual summer event held on Kokusai Street, Naha. Eisa is performed by ordinary participants featuring fun and creative Eisa performances with traditional young dancers filling Kokusai Street. It is also possible to participate on the day of the event as a member of the "Niwaka Eisa Dance Group" (entry fee is 1,500 yen).

https://www.visitokinawa.jp/events/10000-eisa-dancers-parade

Pictures from: https://ichimannin-eisa.okinawa


私も子どもの頃、小学校の運動会や地域のお祭りでエイサーを踊ったことがあります。今でもエイサーの音を聞くと、練習風景や夏の夕暮れ、子供達の衣装の着付けを手伝うお母さんたち、祭りの準備をするお父さんたち、道じゅねーで賑わう夜の住宅街、たくさんの屋台と人で溢れる活気ある公園、浴衣でやぐらをまわる盆踊り、子どもからお年寄りまでみんなが笑顔になるお祭りの高揚感が一気に蘇ります。

When I was young, I used to dance Eisa at my elementary school’s sports festivals and our local festivals. Even now, when I hear the sound of Eisa, the uplifting feeling of the festival brings back memories of practicing Eisa in summer at dusk, mums helping to dress children in costumes, dads preparing for the festival, neighbourhoods filled with Eisa performers for Michijune, the lively parks crowded with many stalls and people, the Bon dancers in yukata around the yagura stage, and all the smiles from young children to the elderly during festival.

今では、お盆以外の年中行事や結婚式、運動会など様々なイベントでも見られるポピュラーな伝統芸能となっているエイサーですが、お祭りやイベントの時期を逃してしまっても、おきなわワールドや琉球村などのテーマパークでエイサーの魅力に触れることができます。

Nowadays Eisa has become a popular traditional performing art that can be seen at various times throughout the year, such as annual events other than Obon, school sports festivals and weddings. If you miss the Eisa events and festivals, you will still have the chance to experience Eisa at Okinawan theme parks, such as Okinawa World and Ryukyu Mura.


OKINAWA WORLD

Endless blue sky, tropical flowers blooming under the shiny sun and sweet smell of the southern wind. Okinawa, where the unique Ryukyu Kingdom florished from the olden times. Vibrant traditional artifacts and culture are still there. Make your own craft item in Traditional Crafts Village, where you will be welcomed by many old local houses with beautiful red roof tiles, explore Gyokusendo, a stunningly beautiful limestone cave grown on a coral reef, and enjoy heroic Eisa dance and Habu vs Mongoose Show. Okinawa World, where you can experience Ryukyu time now. Enjoy your exceptional Okinawa here.

https://www.gyokusendo.co.jp/okinawaworld/en/about/


RYUKYU MURA

In the old days, Okinawa was a kingdom known as Ryukyu Kingdom, rich with its original yet unique cultures. Comes from the name, Ryukyu Mura is a theme park about Okinawa traditions located in the central part of Okinawa main island.

Walking to the entrance, you will be welcomed with Okinawa traditional houses providing variety of activities, from coral picture frame making and shisa painting to stone accessories making. Have a walk between the traditional old houses of Okinawa and enjoy the calming yet relaxing greenery! If the time comes (every day on 10:00 and 16:00), you can see Ryukyu Mura attraction performing Okinawan arts, from Shisha performance, Eisa (dynamic dance with drums) performances, to Okinawan folk songs and Okinawan traditional dance.

https://www.visitokinawa.jp/muslim-information/traditional-okinawa-in-ryukyu-mura



沖縄を訪れる際は是非、エイサーを見て実際に躍動感を味わってください。あなたもきっと、響き渡る太鼓の音や勇壮な踊りに心を打たれると思います。

沖縄に来て、「私の日本」を楽しんでください。

Therefore please don’t miss the liveliness and spirit of Eisa when you visit Okinawa. You will be touched by the sounds of the large barrel drums and the dynamic dance performances.

Come to Okinawa and enjoy 'My Japan' .....!!

Written by Chihiro Matsumoto, International Group Consultant Saizen Tours

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