Tunes, food, tug-of-war with four-ton rope highlight Okinawa festival
OKINAWA CITY — Gate Two Street, Okinawa City’s gateway to Kadena Air Base, will be painted in festive colors this weekend for the annual Okinawa International Carnival, featuring taiko drummers, a tug-of-war with a 4-ton rope and foods from around the world.
Shoppers, who normally flood the district on weekends, are reminded that the street will be closed to all vehicles from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday for the multicultural event, one of Okinawa’s major autumn festivals. The street will be closed from the Goya intersection at Highway 330 to Highway 85 near Kadena’s Gate 2.
Motor traffic also will be partially restricted during the afternoon on Highway 330 in the Goya district and Park Avenue, next to the festival site, according to organizers.
The 13th annual festival will feature a giant parade with a variety of musical groups, including the III Marine Expeditionary Force band, a local jazz band, cheerleaders from Kubasaki and Kadena high schools, a local flamenco troupe and a kachashi Okinawan dance group.
Kinser Taiko, a group of Camp Kinser residents, and other American and non-Japanese teams will perform contemporary eisa dances. Also planned: a giant samba dance by more than 200 dancers. Other events include a beauty pageant and a skateboarding contest at the Okinawa Childrens’ Zoo.
The giant tug-of-war contest, a major attraction of the festival, will begin at 7 p.m. in the middle of Gate Two Street. Yoshitaka Shimabukuro, one of the festival’s committee members, said both Okinawan and American volunteers made the 230-yard long rope.
“It took 11 days and a total of 500 people, including 30 Americans,” he said. “It’s a wholesome symbol of friendship between Americans and Japanese.”
The event draws about 40,000 people annually. “The festival is to promote friendship among Okinawans, Americans and all the people with different cultural backgrounds on the island,” said Shimabukuro