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 Lion Dance: 獅子舞

獅子舞 shishimai is “Lion Dance.”

This obviously has roots in Chinese culture. The shishi dog-lions are similar to shisa dog guardians; they are meant to protect or ward from evil, and to bring prosperity. Okinawa lion-dogs have hairy bodies, unlike the mainland, and lacquered heads made from the wood of Diego trees. Each region is a bit different in style, as well as dancing.

Shishimai are popular during traditional celebratory events, such as the New Year and Harvest festival (豊年祭 hounen-matsuri, around juugoya). Ryukuan lion dance is bit different from the Chinese style; less acrobatic, and usually larger or bulkier. There is a “handler” that sort of leads them around as they perform.

This is a terrible picture… hopefully I can get some better ones this year. This is the style of shishi lion in my village; he has a green lacquer face and and brown dreads.