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!