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Young Okinawan Taiko performer, 1998
Young Okinawan Taiko performer, 1998. Photo: David M. Shimabukuro

Okinawan Festival

Sponsored by the Hawaii United Okinawan Association, the annual Okinawan Festival has been held each year on Saturday and Sunday of the Labor Day weekend since 1982. Recognized as the largest cultural event in Hawaii, the festival draws between 40,000 and 50,000 people to Kapiolani Park in the middle of Waikiki. At the festival, visitors experience a small glimpse into the diverse beauty of the Okinawan people, her culture and arts.

The festival opens on Saturday morning with a parade of Okinawan club banners and a Paranku procession; paranku is a small hand-held drum used in a folk performing art called eisa. When the parade has been completed, guests are treated to non-stop entertainment throughout the course of the festival. Traditional Okinawan music and dances are the main attraction, including the Okinawan classical dances Kajadifu and Yotsutake, and a folk dance Obon, in which over 1000 people participate.

Okinawan Dancers, performing the Yotsutake, 1995
Okinawan Dancers, performing the dance "Yotsutake," 1995 Photo: David Shimabukuro

Sunday's events include Taiko (drum), Sanshin (lute) and Koto (zither) instrumental performances, the Okinawan free-style dance Kachashi, and entertainers from Okinawa. Large tents house displays highlighting Okinawan arts and culture, including lacquerware, pottery, textiles, kimonos, hair-styling, karate, and performing arts. Other displays have included genealogy, calligraphy, flower arrangement, and the Okinawan language ( uchinaaguchi). To delight the palate, Okinawan delicacies are featured: andagi (deep-fried doughnuts), ashitibichi (pig's feet soup), yaki soba (noodles stir-fried with vegetables and meat), and an Okinawan plate with a variety of traditional dishes.

Local artists and craftsmen sell their work, children are offered crafts projects and carnival games, and bonsai and koi are displayed by two Hawaiian cultural organizations. The festival takes over a year of planning and utilizes a volunteer workforce of over 2,000.

Project documentation includes report of 15 pages with a bibliography, 29 stunning 8 x 10 color photographs, and a video of the 1998 Okinawan Festival.

Originally submitted by: Daniel K. Inouye, Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Senator Neil Abercrombie, Representative (1st District) & Patsy T. Mink,Representative (2nd District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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