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

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: https://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.

 

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.

Matsuyama 松山, part 3: Festival 祭 & final day

Continuation from part 1 and part 2 of Matsuyama trip.

At the end of the first day, we were lucky enough that there was a Lantern and danjiri (shrine/temple cart) festival scheduled during our visit, held in the park at the foot of the castle. So of course, we go to check out these interesting mainland matsuri called 大神輿総練 Oomikoshisouneri!

灯りの祭典(ランタン祭り): Lantern festival 

だんじり danjiri: a cart made to represent a temple or shrine, it has 
wheels, but can also be lifted up on the shoulders.

神輿 mikoshi: palanquin carried on the shoulders used by shrines and 
temples during festivals.

I have way too many photos to post, but it was certainly a lively and exciting matsuri. First we ate some matsuri food and drank some beer, then watched the taiko performances.

They lit the lanterns (by hand, all candles!) that adorned the danjiri. Next they started with the all-female mikoshi, parading through the crowds. Then the enormous mikoshi/danjiri rolled out with enthusiatic men on each corner whistling, waving towels, and shouting, while several men were carrying the cart and occasionally lifting it high into the air. Once they had their turn, the smaller danjiri got to go all at once– the field was filled with carts jostling about, drumming, chanting, whistling…! It was a site to see, a great way to end the evening.

To view all of the images, here is an album: http://imgur.com/a/03dUy 

During our final full day in Matsuyama, it rained quite a bit, so there were less pictures. We still had a fairly eventful day, though.

First we explored a historic tea garden and a folkcrafts/textiles museum, both which happened to be open fairly early.

We then went to the day onsen near the hotel 伊予の湯治場 喜助の湯 (“Kisuke”), while not historical, pretty nice with lots of different types of baths. You had to purchase amenities separately which could add up if you do not bring your own.

Afterwards we headed towards the castle gardens, despite the rain. We paid the admission fee to look around the gardens, as well as the tea set. The garden does not always do tea ceremony, so we were fortunate that it was being held this time of year. We were brought out usuzumi youkan 羊羹 to eat and frothy, bright green matcha to drink.

Even though we indulged in a tea set, I was not finished yet… we ended up also walking downtown where I sought out various treats famous to this area, including ichiroku (1-6) tart and shoyu dango. Ichiroku tart is a lovely yuzu citrus castella wrapped around smooth bean paste; you can also buy chesunut and matcha flavors. I also bought Madonna dango (also Botchan themed), which has a really western dango taste: strawberry, vanilla, and cafe ole! It is really good, and I think it must be popular with women.

A gelato shop called SunnyMade also caught our eye, and well, yes… ! Of course we decided to split the “10 small scoops of your choice plate!” We were given a check sheet and decided which of the 18 available flavors to try (the 10 we chose were kabocha/pumpkin, iyokan marmalade, kinako/roasted soy bean, passionfruit, blueberry, strawberry, matcha, salt milk, pear, and another local citrus flavor). There was even a free toppings bar. It was delicious and I would recommend trying it, especially the local flavors!

We shopped for awhile under the covered arcade until dinner time. For dinner, we happened to find this “German” restaurant… well, it was German themed but not really so German at all. It was called Munchen ミュンヘン. We noticed a large number of people getting carry-out right away and wondered what it might be… turns out it was karaage, and this place is super popular spot to get karaage. We ordered some (Japanese) beer in king size mugs, karaage, German sausage plate, and fried gobou (burdock root). It was all actually really good, and not pricey at all. Overall my husband was very happy. Afterwards we crashed at the hotel with a few more beers from the conbini and watched the local news.