Setsubun festivals in Okinawa: 節分祭

節分: Setsubun
祭: festival


In a previous post, I talked a little about Setsubun, the bean-scattering ceremony. This year, I went to the setsubun-sai (festival) at Naminoue Shrine, which is held on February 3rd. It was a grey and cloudy day, with a bit of a chill. My husband and I parked the car a few blocks away from the shrine and stopped at a conbini for coffee.

We walked up to the shrine a bit before 10am (the starting time), and with the overcast weather, it was busy but not as busy as New Years hatsumode. It started promptly at 10am, with some prayers and rites of various sorts. Next came the shishimai (lion dance), which is always a lot of fun. Finally it was time for the bean-throwing!

Now what surprised me about this festival was that they didn’t just throw beans… they threw oranges, candies, and little bags of snacks/toy as well! It was crazy, but entertaining. Again, like the Naritasan fukusenji festival, some people had bags and baskets, or used their hats, to help catch the flying prizes. After everything was thrown, the local news interviewed kids to see what all they caught. They also handed out hot zenzai (sweet red bean soup) at the shrine window~~ so as soon as the throwing is done, get in line before they run out of zenzai!

Overall, it was a lot of fun and not as crowded as I feared. So if you are in Okinawa during Setsubun, be sure to check out Naminoue Shrine’s festival!

You can also wait until Feb 11th (public holiday in Japan) for Naritasan Fukusenji’s bean-throwing festival. Since Naritasan fukusenji is my local temple, I typically attend the events there; this setsubun festival is a lot of fun too, though not as big as Naminoue shrine’s, and they only throw beans at this one. Plus at Naritasan, the sakura are usually blooming well, so the temple looks very pretty this time of year.


Narita-san Fukusenji (temple) holds their festival on Feb 11th, 2pm: 〒901-2403 沖縄県中頭郡中城村字伊舎堂617  https://goo.gl/maps/r1YFXQDMQVE2

Naminoue Shrine 波上宮 in Naha has a large Setsubun festival held on Feb 3rd, 10am, every year; it is shown on the news: https://goo.gl/maps/sLP2LHodzT92

Gokokuji Shrine 護国神社 also has a Setsubun festival, Feb 3rd, 9am:   https://goo.gl/maps/KayHk5KVwWo

New Year’s Eve in Okinawa : 大晦日

大晦日 oomisoka: New Year’s eve

**in Okinawa language it is pronounced “toushinuyuruu” とぅしぬゆるー


New year’s eve in Okinawa is a bit different from the mainland. Overall, there are less temples and shrines in Okinawa than in the mainland (not only, this but historically there are some differences in religion), so visiting at the stroke of midnight is not nearly as common. Some people do it, but it is much less of a thing here than mainland Japan. Mostly only the big ones like Naminoue Shrine in Naha, or Futenma Shrine in Ginowan, are crowded. I have a list of some temples and shrines in Okinawa in a previous post, as well as a description of hatsumode. I described some of the Okinawa New Year’s customs in another post.

As far as countdown fireworks, there are some, mostly at the resort areas. Again, mostly for tourists rather than the common folk, these shows are only about 1 minute; typically the resorts also host live music shows or dance parties as well. Outside of the resorts, Itoman Peaceful illuminations by the Peace Memorial Park and the ChuraSun Beach illuminations in Tomigusuku have fireworks. There are also some fireworks by the Nakagusuku Port/Awase area (by the Comprehensive Park) that I can see from my lanai, and then some to the south in Nanjo at the Yuinchi Wellness resort that I can see as well. The Peace Memorial Park has some solemn ceremony as well, to pray for a peaceful New Year.

Many people stay at home for New Year’s eve. Young people, Americans, and tourists often go out to all-night events, so some areas around Naha, American bases and resorts hold various types of music and party events.

In terms of food, year-end (or year-crossing) soba 年越しそば (toshikoshi soba) takes the form of traditional Okinawa soba rather than mainland style buckwheat soba. Although toshikoshi soba is not that popular here, you will find that the Japanese soba and Okinawa suba places are very busy on New Year’s eve anyway. Rather, typical celebratory foods also used in other Ryukyu feast days are more common. So those feast boxes, usanmi ウサンミ, are the typical; you can buy them at any grocery store during this time, though it is better to pre-order. In addition to usanmi, hors d’oeuvres オードブル trays are commonly purchased (or pre-ordered) from grocery stores and restaurants. But don’t let the name fool you, it is not what many westerners may consider hors d’oeuvres… but rather lots of fried foods and meats. In Hawai’i it is similar to the idea of “heavy pupus.”

Red vs White (Kouhaku uta Gassen 紅白歌合戦) is one of the New Year’s eve TV programs that I am familiar with; there are others, but this is the tradition for my husband and I. Probably because Arashi 嵐 (boy band of my generation) has hosted it a few times, I insist on watching it. This year, Okinawa’s own Namie Amuro 安室奈美恵 will be singing.

Anyway, there are different options on how to spend the eve of the New Year in Okinawa… choose what you like best.

*I will try to add a little more info to this post with some more traditional customs over the next week or so.

 

Culture Day: 文化の日

文化 bunka: culture

文化の日 bunka-no-hi: Culture Day


In Japan, on November 3rd is “Culture Day,” a national public holiday.

In our village, there was a culture celebration held the following weekend. Various village products were promoted, and people did various types of performances at the local auditorium. Not just our village, many many surrounding towns and villages also held culture festivities similar to this one the same weekend, so if you live in Okinawa be sure to seek them out this time of year.

We did not go see all of them (the program was several hours long), but we did go see the final act, a kumiodori 組踊 (traditional Ryukyu musical play/dance) put on by the local village people. The piece they enacted was the age old story of Lord Gosamaru 護佐丸; Lord Amawari’s betrayal, Lord Gosamaru’s suicide, and his son’s revenge. The performance is in uchinaaguchi うちなーぐち (Okinawan language), so it is a little difficult to understand all the dialog/singing. But it was fun and interesting nonetheless. Another chance to immerse ourselves in local culture and get to know our neighbors.

We also ate little taiyaki たい焼き in the shape of Gosamaru before the performance, sold at one of the small stands as part of the culture celebration.

 

Fire-walking ritual in Okinawa

Recently, I was able to attend the Futenmanzan Jinguuji 普天間神宮寺 matsuri (festival) at the Futenma temple (next to Futenma shrine).

The fire-walking ritual 火渡り神事 (hiwatari shinji) is the main draw. Unfortunately some heavy rain showers led to the event ending early, so perhaps next year I can see it in the entirety and get some interesting pictures of the monks walking through the fire.

So, to explain the process: you buy a wood board and write your wish/prayer on it. The monks will start to chant and light a large sacred fire. When it is time, you throw your wooden prayer board into the fire!

First the monks will have some more ceremonial rituals, and walk through the fire; it is supposed to be a powerful cleansing and purifying experience. This portion was cut extremely short due to the heavy rain, and so the fire couldn’t exactly keep on.

Now it is time to walk through the fire…! Well, it isn’t too scary I think, since it at this point they stamp out the flames and it is mostly just hot ashes. Many people lined up and removed their shoes/socks in order to process through the “fire.” At the end of fire area was and altar and when you reach the altar, they gave you an orange.

Really it was quite interesting and not at all what I expected to see in Okinawa, as this is more of a mainland Japan ritual.

Wauke Juugoya Matsuri: 和宇慶十五夜祭

In a small neighborhood of Wauke 和宇慶, located in Nakagusuku town here in Okinawa, there is a Juugoya (15th night) celebration 十五夜祭 held the Saturday after Juugoya/Tsukimi (15th day of the 8th lunar month).

We rode our bicycles down to the Wauke community center where the festivities were just getting started at about 7pm. Like many small community events, we were welcomed kindly by the local Okinawans and given drinks (cans of beers and green tea), as well as a plate of local foods. We settled onto our mat and watched shishimai (lion dance), fan dance, karate demonstrations, Ryukyu dance, and more throughout the evening. All the performances were very fun and interesting.

At the end, there is what is known as “community dance” called カチャーシー Kachaashii… where basically everyone gathers by the stage of the celebration and dances. As you may guess, beers had been drunk and being the only foreigners (besides 1 guy who was of Okinawan descent from Hawaii on a local government exchange), we were of course shuffled to the stage to participate, as well as our new-found Hawaiian uchinanchu friend. And, well, I guess our elderly community friends here seem to really enjoy these 外国人 who come to and participate in local events, so we indulged them. Some were surprised that I knew “open the door, shut the door,” an integral part of local dance here (this probably sounds a bit strange, so I will need to explain perhaps in a post later about local dancing).

Anyway, a good time was had by all… if you happen to be in Okinawa, I recommend you seek out these small Juugoya festivities in your neighborhood and spend some time getting to know your neighbors. I find making memories such as these much more rewarding than the bigger, well-known events. I forged bonds with my neighbors, and got to understand little deeper about Ryukyu and Okinawan culture/traditions.


Pictures coming soon.

Okinawa All-island Eisa and Orion Beer Festival

One of the most popular natsu matsuri (summer festival) 夏祭り is the All-island Okinawa Eisa and Orion beer festival held the weekend following obon— at least with Americans that is. Held at the Koza Sports Park, I have seen more Americans at this festival than any other. It is actually 2 festivals, coinciding with each other: the eisa festival itself and the Orion Beer Festival.

*In 2018, this will August 31-September 2.

To reach the festival, there are free shuttle buses, as there is no parking at the venue. You can park at Aeon Rycom Mall, as well as some other areas to catch the free shuttle buses. Otherwise, there are some paid parking areas near Koza.

On Friday evening, in the Koza area, there is the Eisa parade. The parade is actually pretty nice; bring a leisure sheet to sit on and some dinner to relax and watch. Next to us, there was a family with a kid (who could not have been more than 3 or so) and he played his pint size drum, dancing around in his eisa outfit as the groups played on the street. He was quite entertaining.

On Saturday and Sunday, is the actual eisa festival and beer festival; the festivals, though both are at the Koza Sports Park, is divided into 2 sections. On one side is the Orion Beer festival, with outdoor tables and chairs, music stage entertainment, Orion Beer girls, tents selling nothing but Orion draft beer, and of course, loud drunk Americans (well, and locals too, if we are being honest). When you enter, they give you a wristband if you are of drinking age and you MUST have it to buy alcohol. I usually don’t spend more than about 5 minutes there, as it really isn’t my scene. But I think the beer is usually cheaper on this side than the eisa festival side, so…

The other side where the eisa festival is, however, more family friendly. There are pay seats in the bleachers, but for free you can just bring a sheet and sit in the field to watch. It is all eisa performances, so it can get a bit repetitive, but can be a fun evening out, especially if you have never been to a natsu matsuri before. You will likely see many girls (both local and foreign) wearing summer yukata or jinbei.

Of course, lining the entire area is typical summer festival food tents. A lot of these are what I refer to as generic “yellow tent” food (due to a majority of them using a basic yellow tent), a company that comes in and sells mediocre food in large volume.. often times it is not really hot when you get it. I try to find the more local vendors, who are usually hawking piping-hot fresh food. Over here, you can still buy beer and are away from the drunk scene.

At the end of the night, there are fireworks to finish off the evening. While it is not my favorite festival on island it can still be fun, especially for new-comers, and you can experience a lot of eisa all in one place. Plus, I have to admit, all the lanterns strung up with happy festival goers in yukata, drums and fireworks gives a nice ambience on a hot summer evening.


address: Koza Sports Park, https://goo.gl/maps/qXA6QUxsdyT2

official festival website: http://www.zentoeisa.com/

Summer Festival Food: 夏祭りの屋台

夏祭り natsu matsuri means summer festival (I wrote a little about this before).

Of course, no summer matsuri is complete without the food tents, called 屋台 yatai. Most popular are probably the fried and grilled foods; some of the more “traditional” ones that I have seen in Okinawa are listed below. Just be careful not to stain your yukata…

**I will try and add some more pictures of all the foods as I have time.

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Yakisoba 焼きそば : fried noodles. Usually at summer matsuri, I see Japanese sauce yakisoba rather than Okinawan salt yakisoba, but it depends on the festival.

Takoyaki たこ焼き: fried octopus balls. Round dough balls with bits of octopus mixed in and fried, then topped with sauce and usually katsuobushi.

Okonomiyaki お好み焼き: cabbage “pancakes,” topped with sauce, as well as usually mayo, nori, and katsuobushi.

Pote ポテ: potato fries.

Yakitori 焼き鳥: grilled chicken skewers.

Ika yaki イカ焼き: literally, squid grilled on a skewer. Squid-on-a-stick.

Jaga bataa じゃがバター: baked potato with butter.

(Yaki) toumorokoshi (焼き)とうもろこし: corn; in this case it will be grilled and slathered with butter.


Recently we went to a matsuri in Nago and split a mega-combo メガコンボ, which came with a mix of potato fries, yakisoba, takoyaki, and yakitori. It was a popular food tent, and everything was cooked piping hot on the spot. It was nice because it came with a small(ish) serving of a bunch of different foods for variety, and a good compromise for my husband and I to split.

Some food tents are starting to offer some more western choices, like “meat pies” which I think are kinda like empanadas. Often you also see アメリカンドッグ  “American dog,” which just means a corn dog.

You might also see some “local specialties,” which in Okinawa typically means soba. Each festival has its own wide array of foods to try, and we enjoy trying as many as possible. On the mainland I have seen way more variety of matsuri food, and some really interesting looking ones. So keep in mind since this list is mostly applicable to Okinawa, I have only included the ones most common in Okinawa.

And of course, there is more than just savory foods… plenty of sweets as well.


Wataame わたあめ: cotton candy.

Choco banana チョコバナナ: chocolate covered banana on a stick.

Taiyaki たい焼き: fish-shaped bean pastry.

Dorayaki どら焼き: round pancake-like bean pastry.

Sata andagi サーターアンダギー: Okinawan fried “donuts.”

Kaki-gouri かき氷: Shave ice!


In Okinawa, the drink selection is typically some canned soft drinks (though don’t expect much variety beyond water, green tea, and coke), draft Orion beer, and of course, the local booze, awamori.

 

Playing Under the Stars in Okinawa: 毛遊び

毛遊び mou ashibi: the rough meaning is to gather in the fields or the seaside and play from early evening until late under the moon and the stars, eating while watching traditional dance and folk songs (and most like drinking alcohol). For those of you who read Japanese, this Okinawan pronunciation may seem strange… “ashibi” 遊び means “to play” in Okinawan language and “mou” 毛 actually has the same meaning as the kanji 野 for field/plains (毛 “ke” in Japanese it refers to fur or hair!).

Once upon a time in Okinawa, young adults used to gather around in a field from an early evening until midnight and enjoyed performances of traditional dances, songs, play sanshin while they were drinking awamori. It paints a very cheerful and nostalgic image for me.

In the old days, it was actually sort of like “marriage meetings”… an opportunity to meet a suitable partner for many young people; kind of like the modern gokon 合コン (“group date”) that go on today. These days the term “mou ashibi” is mostly used for family-friendly traditional song and dance events that happen in the evening. You may see many of these happening, particular in the summer/autumn time, usually near traditional or historical spots (such as at the gusuku sites). Families bring food and drinks, as well as mats/sheets to sit on (you can even buy these sheets at the Daiso, or sometimes they give them away at events). They enjoy music, dancing, and traditional entertainment under the moonlight.

I hope if you come to Okinawa you can make it to one of these special events, drinking and playing under the stars!

Miruku (god): ミルク神

弥勒: Miroku (Japanese). In Okinawan language it is pronounced “Miruku.” It feels kind of strange, because ミルク miruku is one way to say “milk” in Japanese as well. But in this case, miruku ミルク is a deity 神様 (kami-sama), not the white beverage!


*神 kami means “god,” and -様 -sama is a very polite way to address people in Japanese.

Used as ミルク神, it should probably be pronounced miruku-shin, though I sometimes see variations such as miruku-gami and miruku-kami.


Miruku is actually one of the most commonly worshipped gods in the Ryukyu islands, especially the Yaeyama islands. Often someone will dress as Miruku in the island festivals, a long yellow robe with a large white mask carrying a fan. He is believed to have come from across the sea, nirai kanai ニライカナイ (this means sort of like “heaven” to Okinawan people), and comes bringing good fortune.

Hateruma 波照間島, the southern most island, is famous for “Mushaama,” a festival during the obon. The festival is designated as a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property, and held on July 14th of the lunar calendar. It combines obon festivities with harvest ceremonies like the Miruku fertility deity parade and shishimai (lion dance). Islanders offer prayers to their ancestors and pray for their happiness, bountiful crops and of course, a big catch at sea.

In Akata 赤田 of Shuri, a traditional ceremony called miruku unke みるくウンケー is held. A smiling maitreya (a bodhisattva) and his followers walk around the community and pray for the good health and prosperity of residents. The miruku unke ceremony was revived in 1994 after not being held for about sixty years! Since then it has become an annual event. Starting from the Akata Club Community Center, the miruku walks at the head of the parade, called suneei スネーイ. About 100 people follow, including a marching band and children carrying flags of the Ryukyu era (these particular flags are called ンカジ, nkaji, which means “centipede” in Okinawa language, due to their jagged edges), while the miruku waves his paper fan to drive off evil spirits from around the people waiting to watch the parade. Often babies cry (I guess he is a little scary) and elderly people wave from the second floor of their houses. The parade is called suneei スネーイ. It typically happens on the Sunday before Obon. In 2018 this will be August 19th; in previous years it has begun around 4:30pm. In some other villages, the miruku parades occur on different days.

If you live in Okinawa, you should definitely go watch one of these parades with Miruku-kamisama!

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Saw this guy at the Okinawa Prefectural Museum.

Youtube videos of Miruku in the town near me, Nishihara.

 

Nanmin Matsuri: なんみん祭

波上宮 Naminoue Shrine, located in Naha.

神輿 mikoshi: palanquin used to transport Shinto deities, a portable shrine.

なんみん祭: Nanmin Matsuri (Naminoue Shrine festival, Nanmin is the shrine’s name in Okinawan language)


Possibly the closest to a Japanese mainland-style mikoshi you will see in Okinawa is during the Nanmin Festival at the Naminoue shrine!

Every year the mikoshi procession is on the Sunday of the festival. It starts at 10am from Naminoue Shrine and winds it way to the open space in front of the Palette Kumoji (Ryubo) at the end of Kokusai-dori. There is also eisa, traditional Ryukyu dance, shishimai (lion dance), karate demonstrations, a beach tsunahiki (tug-of-war), bukubuku-cha/tea ceremony, and more during this weekend festival (Saturday & Sunday).

This is a must-see for anyone living in Okinawa who has not experienced this on the mainland of Japan. Obviously on mainland, this is a much more common site to see, and they are very exciting and exuberant events. This one is much smaller, and less crowded, which in some ways makes for a better experience!


**Bukubuku-cha event: started from 2pm on Saturday of the festival, Naminoue shrine. We watched as some skilled ladies made the foam for the tea. At 2pm, they had benches to sit down while they came around with individual trays containing a cup of tea topped with foam and 2 chinsukou (cookies). This event was free! Yum! On Saturday, there was also children’s sumo from 1pm, and some taiko performances from 6pm (we did not stay for taiko so I cannot comment on that experience).

**Mikoshi event: started at 10am on Sunday at the shrine, however we met up with them by the Ryubo Palette Kumoji around 11am. There was the parade into the square, then some ceremonies/rituals. Next came various performances, of which the shishimai was probably my favorite. As always they came thru the crowd to try to bite small children. While this was going on, the pole-dancing went on by Kokusai-dori. No, not like that… by pole-dancing I mean “Gaaee” ガーエー, which means something like “winner’s triumphant shout.” Basically it entails guys carrying a large, heavy bamboo pole decorated with flags and flowers and other decorations, called hatagashira 旗頭. Hatagashira are an example of the traditional Okinawan culture. They are symbols created to represent a the success of a village. After the various performances wrapped up, the parade returned to the shrine and beach for some more events. At this point my hubby was pretty done, so we headed home.

imgur album of pictures: http://imgur.com/a/HLbRn


Naminoue Shrine: https://goo.gl/maps/hTQHchmVj8G2

Palette Kumoji: https://goo.gl/maps/kj1rYVvFkr42

**it is best to take public transportation to this event, or park in one of the lots around Kokusai-dori– there is no parking at the shrine itself.

Strawberry picking in Okinawa: イチゴ狩り

苺 or イチゴ  or いちご ichigo: strawberry

狩り kari: literal translation is “hunting,” but it used for picking fruit

so ichigo-gari イチゴ狩り is strawberry picking.


Strawberry picking is really popular in Japan.

Today we went to Chura Ichigo 美らイチゴ, a strawberry farm in Itoman. Here, you pick your own strawberries in their covered greenhouse. They just opened this year and they grow 5 different varieties of strawberries.

When you enter, you take off your shoes and put them in the cubby, then wear the rubber slippers provided for you. Next you will be handed a basket with a tray in it. You are instructed in the method of how to pluck the strawberries, by turning the tops downwards and pulling gently (look at the picture signs they have for you to understand what I mean).

What I like about this place is that there is no entrance fee (!) and you simply pay for as many as you pick (2yen per 1 gram). We enjoyed some time choosing from the different varieties of berries and ended up with about 950yen worth of strawberries. These berries were so sweet and delicious, it was such a good value. If you want, they also have some benches you can sit at and enjoy eating your berries after you have paid for them, or you can get a bag to carry them home in if you prefer. I highly recommend trying Chura Ichigo!

Some other places, such as some farms in Ginoza (up north) and Tomoyu Farm in Nakagusuku, have only a tabehoudai 食べ放題 (all-you-can-eat) plan where you pay a certain amount (usually 1300yen for adults) and you can eat as many strawberries as you want in 20 minutes. For me, I prefer to savor my berries since they are a rare treat; I don’t want to scarf them down in a certain amount of time. So while I appreciate the novelty of the tabehoudai idea, it is not how I wish to enjoy my strawberries.

Chura Ichigo Itoman branch is only open on Saturdays and Wednesdays, from about January until May, starting from 10am until they are out of berries for the day. Most strawberry picking places in Okinawa begin their season around January/February and close by May.

**UPDATE: Chura Ichigo has opened a second location in NANJO. This location is open on Sundays and Thursdays, starting at 10 am until they are out of berries. These 2 locations have become so popular it is important to check the website for the day to see if they have sold out or go at opening! The website is even in English now since many foreign people enjoy visiting! The fees have changed; there is now an entrance fee and berries are 3yen per gram. They have also added a tabehoudai plan 食べ放題 for those interested.

website: http://www.chura-ichigo.jp/en/


Itoman address: https://goo.gl/maps/hsScgeBHF6J2

Nanjo address: https://goo.gl/maps/AisPknp6tM82

Akafuku Mochi: 赤福餅

赤福餅 akafuku mochi is a famous type of mochi from Ise 伊勢 in Mie prefecture 三重県. It has a 300 year history.

赤 aka means “red” and 福 fuku means “luck.” 餅 mochi is rice cake.

At the Mie-Nagoya products fair, I got a tea set for only 210yen that included 2 pieces of akafuku mochi and tea.

Akafuku mochi is made with such smooth delicious bean paste, shaped in peaks to symbolize the ripples of the Isuzu river that flows through the Ise grand shrine region. Inside is mochi (rice cake) that represents the smooth white river pebbles.

The taste is amazing; they use no preservatives or artificial coloring and the azuki beans used are from Hokkaido, the mochi is made from all domestic mochi rice.

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Hekoki Manjuu へこきまんじゅう: Fart-inducing cakes

Today I went to a products fair for Nagoya and Mie held at the department store. There was this really tempting looking manjuu from Mie prefecture; it had a batter made with satsuma-imo (Japanese sweet potato). It was called hekoki manjuu へこきまんじゅう.

屁こき (へこき) hekoki: means “breaking wind” or “farting.”

饅頭 (まんじゅう) manjuu is just a type of Japanese steamed bun or cake. Some people romanize it as “manju” with only 1 u.

So these are “cakes” that make you pass gas. Hmmm. I read that sweet potatoes can make you more gassy.

There were many types to choose from but I got the one with cream cheese and cranberry in the middle and it was very delicious. The batter is made from sweet potato which made the texture and taste so yummy. I would really recommend trying these, but maybe not too many at one time…

I didn’t get a picture of the manjuu cake itself since I was too hungry to wait. At the time I was thinking of my stomach and hadn’t planned to write an entry about it. But then I thought that fart-inducing cakes seemed like a pretty interesting/unique food as well as being incredibly oishii 美味しい. I suppose whenever I make it to Mie prefecture, I will have to find their original shop!

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One Piece Fun Run in Okinawa

We participated in the One Piece run in Chatan 北谷町; it is a 5.5 km “running” course set up through the American Village area with a One Piece (anime, manga) theme. The tickets were purchased through Lawson conbini and came with a T-shirt and wristband, as well as various other small things. We chose to do the first wave, but there are 4 times you could choose from.

Of course, on this day it decided to be rainy… but we did not let that deter us. We even got all the stamps for the stamp rally. Now admittedly, I have not read or seen much of One Piece… my husband wanted to participate in a beginner’s run, and since marathons are honestly a bit extreme for us, when this came up we decided to go for it. After all… it is Japan, and participating in an anime-themed run seems like something we should experience at least once.

There were some people dressed up as various characters or with One Piece gear, though you do not need to be so extreme to participate. The tent was selling some One Piece merchandise and souvenirs for the more serious fans. We were happy with our shirt and wristband.

As we jogged our way through the course, there were various fun station stops and picture opportunities. There was a sweets station (yes, I know… during a run, really? sweets? doesn’t that sort of feel contradictory?), the pirate ship, foam party, water gun battle, speakers playing OnePiece songs, character photos, and more. Despite being a little cold and soaked from the rain we had a pretty good time and my husband met his goal challenge. At the end they gave you a cute little certificate to say you completed and a pin. Maybe we will try again next year and have better weather.

For those who are more true fans, there was an “after-party” concert with some of the voice actors and one of the singing groups. We were chilly and wet, so we ended up to go home.

 

Kume-no-Sakura: クメノサクラ

Somewhat recently in Okinawa, we have another type of sakura (cherry blossom) that blooms after the usual season here (usual season for Okinawa is late January through mid-February). It comes from Kume-jima, so it is called kume-no-sakura クメノサクラ. Someiyoshino 染井吉野 is a type of cherry blossom blooming in mainland Japan; Kume no sakura is a cherry blossom which looks similar to someiyoshino, with whitish, faintly pale pink petals. Typically in Okinawa, we have a type of sakura with bright pink petals called kanhi zakura 寒緋櫻 (cold scarlet sakura), which are actually from Taiwan and southern China.

So while many people think that the sakura season is over for Okinawa, it is in fact not! In Izumi ward of the Motobu peninsula (not far from Yaedake), you can see these beautiful kume-no-sakura blooms, usually during mid- to late March, or even into very early April. There are around 1,000 trees planted there.

Another difference you will notice with the kume-no-sakura petals is that they fall away one by one, instead of the whole flower dropping at once like the kanhizakura does. The feeling of the kume-no-sakura trees is very different from the more commonly found kanhizakura here in Okinawa.

So if you missed the sakura the first time around in Okinawa, just be patient… and you will be rewarded with a set of slightly different, but just as pretty, sakura! How lucky are we in Okinawa that we get to see sakura not once, but twice a year?


*Note: you may be able to see these trees around various locations, but not in large concentrations– one such place is in front of the Orion Beer Happy Park in Nago.

These are some pictures are of them just starting, taken with my iPhone:


Address for Kume-no-sakura trees in Izumi ward of Motobu (there is a parking lot right next to the trees):
https://goo.gl/maps/P5dx8YpfPUQ2

*First blooms: Mid-March, Peak: end of March, End: early April