Friday, September 5, 2014

Eisa: An Okinawan Performance

The Japanese holiday of Obon is a day where families reunite to commemorate the dead by visiting and cleaning ancestors' graves. During this time, festivals are held to transport portable Shinto shrines or Mikoshi  to a temporary Shinto site. For an example, watch the video below!

Although this festival is common throughout Japan, Okinawa is and is not Japan and this mikoshi festival does not exist in Okinawa. Instead, Okinawa has it's own traditional festival and performance called Eisa. Eisa is a combination of Okinawan traditional music performed on a sanshin using Uchinaguchi lyrics along with taiko drums and Okinawan dancing. It's mostly performed during the summer and fall, but the Eisa chant "Haiya iya sasa" can be heard all year round on commercials and on the radio. The largest Eisa festival is held in Okinawa City, where a massive street performance shuts down the entire city! However, even small towns like mine will have Eisa performances during the summer! Most students also perform Eisa during their Sport's Day! It's a very moving performance and it is essential for the preservation of Okinawan culture. Think of it this way: Eisa is to Okinawa what Hula Dancing is to Hawaii! 

Check out some videos (and pictures too!) below, and try to see if you can hear the "Haiya iya sasa" chant! 

Here are some of my videos! 
(Sorry about the quality)

The mascots of Okinawa City are Eisa Performers! 

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