In Okinawa, you can hear the sounds of taiko (a traditional Japanese drum) being practised somewhere every night when it comes close to Bon Festival each year. That’s right. It’s the sound of eisa practice.
Eisa is a type of traditional performing arts of Okinawa. You can see it in summer festivals and special events. The origin of this performing art is said to have originated as a way to send off the ancestral spirits, who descended for the Bon Festival from July 13 to 15 on the lunar calendar, as they return to the spirit world by beating the taiko loudly. The heroic choreography of the dance, the sound of drums (paranku) beating with elation, and the nostalgic sound of the three-stringed instrument (sanshin) will capture the hearts of the crowds unconditionally. Currently, it not only plays a role as a cultural feature, attracting people from around and outside of Okinawa, but it also creates a great opportunity for locals of all ages to come together.
Between June to August is the season for Eisa Night. Eisa events are held every week at various places around Okinawa City during this season, drawing crowds at each venue. Many youth groups and children perform eisa at the events.
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 age on the day of the festival. The festival admission is free, but admission to the main event is charged. Orion Beer Fest is also held nearby, so you can enjoy Okinawa’s hottest night while drinking the local Orion beer.
Started in 1995, a parade by the 10,000 Eisa Dancers is held on the first Sunday of August every year on Kokusaidori, the main street of Naha. At the parade, many participants from youth groups on the island gather and perform various eisa from traditional to original styles.