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  • Writer's pictureAmy S

Exploring Okinawa | Harvest Festival

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

The harvest festival. You may have heard of this in other parts of the world. Here, it's the first full moon of fall and is celebrated different ways depending on where you go in Okinawa. I had a hard time finding communities that still celebrate it via the internet, but I did find at least one. And I am so glad that we stopped by!

Honestly, I was unsure if we would be successful at finding a festival in action. I found one that I thought may happen, and so we drove to the village to check it out. And what we found... Nada, nothing to even hint something was going on here. Every one was just conducting business as usual. It felt like nothing was going on here and so we left this village to check the neighboring village to see if we had the location wrong. As it turns out, it was at the original village. Once everyone was off of work and school, you started seeing adults start directing traffic and families coming out to the streets. And then you could hear the taiko drums from afar.

It started at the community center, the Shishimai dancers, taiko drummers and local warriors got together to start their walk around the village scaring little kids. The Shishimai is a traditional lion dance, and let's just say, it's good luck to be bitten by one if you're a kid. But of course, you have to be brave enough to take the nibble and most of the kids ran and screamed, the little ones cried, but hey, it's for good luck! Throughout the village you could hear taiko drums beating, hand bells dinging, the village one by one joins onto the parade until they reach each of the shrines. At the shrines the elders do their part, give their offerings, say their prayers and hope for a good future.

At the main shrine, the warriors performed bōjutsu, the Japanese translation is "staff technique", which is a martial art involving stick fighting. Each warrior showed off their skills in front of the village and shrine. It was a good show of force and discipline. After the performance, the Shishi lion was back on the prowl. Those little kids and babies needed nibbling on to rid their village of bad spirits and of course provide good luck for the next season. Happy Harvest Season!

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