Hundreds participate in Okinawa’s annual Eisa Festival
Stars and Stripes August 22, 2006
OKINAWA CITY, Okinawa — Leaping in the air in perfect step, performers pounded taiko drums as graceful dancers in colorful kimonos followed and clowns with painted faces cavorted with the crowd Sunday at the annual Eisa Festival.
Hundreds from all over the island performed the traditional Okinawan dance, including an international troupe with about 20 Americans.
“I’m very humbled to be included in such an old tradition,” said Judy Compton, who has been performing Eisa with the Okinawa City International Association for the six years her husband has been stationed at Kadena Air Base. “It’s a great chance to partake in the local culture.”
Eisa, which is unique to the Ryukyu Islands, involves shimedaiko, odaiko and other drum playing and rhythmic hand and feet movements.
On Sunday, musicians in a grandstand on the field accompanied the performers with singing and on sanshin, a banjo-like instrument that is covered in snakeskin. The music was piped through speakers all around the festival and could be heard blocks away.
Lana Marsh, who came from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to perform with her 8-year-old and 10-year-old daughters, said despite this being her second year doing Eisa, she was a little nervous.
“The Okinawans are so graceful,” she said. “I can’t match that.”