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eisa dancers, naha great tug of war, naha hari dragon boat races, okinawa festival, ryukyu kaiensai fireworks, ryukyu lantern festival

The Okinawa Festival: Five Great Events to Discover!

Karina Ikedo

Karina Ikedo

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A taiko drummer at one of the Okinawa festivals.

Okinawa festivals will surely please people of all ages, as there’s something to suit every taste and preference. The island is packed with must-see events throughout the year, from centuries-old festivals to seasonal festivities. Each festival offers a way to connect with the unique island culture that makes Okinawa unlike anywhere else in Japan. Keep reading as we’ve curated a list of the best Okinawa festivals to attend!

10K Eisa Dancers Parade

Feel the festivity of summer as a parade of 10,000 eisa dancers makes its way through the heart of Naha. Eisa is a dance performed during the O-bon holidays to remember, pay respect, and send off ancestors. It’s the largest eisa dance festival in Okinawa, held annually on the first Sunday of August. Not to mention, Eisa dancers from around the island parade down Kokusai Street, the city’s premier district for shopping and dining. 

A bunch of taiko dancers at the 10K Eisa Dancers festival.
This event brings a lot of fabulous energy! Image via Shutterstock

The parade consists of various types of performances, including both traditional and original eisa dances. Moreover, paying a 1,000-yen fee ($7.17), you can enjoy eisa dancing on the festival day. Eisa’s unique rhythms and movements of eisa are accompanied by the beating of drums and a beautiful, lively dance. 

Ryukyu Lantern Festival

The Ryukyu Lantern Festival is one of the most popular festivals in Okinawa. During the festival, the streets of Okinawa light up with thousands of colorful paper lanterns. You can also discover handmade lanterns, watch concerts and dance performances on a lantern-lit stage, and see buildings illuminated with laser projection mapping. 

The Ryukyu Lantern Festival at night, one of many Okinawa Festivals.
This event dates back to the Ming Dynasty. Image via Japan Travel

The festivities include Okinawan food and drink, bringing the local community together in an evening of celebration and joy. Okinawa soba noodles and snack-style foods are available at several stalls throughout the park. Additionally, the Lantern Café at the center of the festival offers popular jumbo yakitori (grilled chicken) skewers and steamed meat buns. 

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Naha Great Tug of War

Come to the grand celebration at Okinawa’s extraordinary Naha Tug-of-War Festival! Held for three thrilling days in October, this ancient event traces its roots back to the 16th century, immersing participants and spectators in the rich heritage of Okinawan culture. To emphasize, you can join thousands of enthusiastic attendees as they come together to experience the vibrant traditions and the joyous spirit of this remarkable tug-of-war festival in Naha.

A large rope in the middle of the street during the Naha Great Tug of War.
You don’t want to miss this epic event! Image via Shutterstock

In 1997, the festival appeared in the Guinness World Records as the largest tug-of-war event in the world. The enormous rope has 280 smaller ropes attached so that everyone can enjoy the fun. Sections of the rope are then cut off and passed around to whoever wants a unique and memorable souvenir.

Ryukyu Kaiensai Fireworks

The Ryukyu Kaiensai fireworks festival is an annual event held in Okinawa, known for its spectacular fireworks displays. Usually, the festival takes place in the summer and is one of the most popular festivals in Okinawa. Moreover, it offers incredible views of colorful and mesmerizing fireworks as they shoot into the night sky.

A fireworks event, the Ryukyu Kaisen Fireworks festival that features colorful starmine fireworks.
This event has some of the most beautiful fireworks ever! Image via Shutterstock

Enjoy thousands of fireworks set off with perfect precision to the beat of the music. Additionally, the show combines elements of both Okinawan music and culture. The Ryukyu Kaiensai Fireworks Festival is a sight and a beloved part of Okinawa’s summer traditions.

Naha Hari Dragon Boat Races

Hari (dragon boat race) is a festival to pray for a rich catch and safety at sea. Watch as mighty dragons race along the waves in Okinawa’s largest dragon boat racing event. During Japan’s Golden Week, the festival transforms the Nahashin Port into a battle zone every May. 

During the festival, fishermen compete in races using traditional Okinawan boats, ranging from large dragon boats to smaller fishing boats. Visitors can also enjoy boat rides, musical performances, sumo wrestling, and fireworks over the ocean.

The Naha Hari Dragon Boat Races, one of many Okinawa festivals.
The hari dragon boats are a symbol of strength. Image via Shutterstock

To summarize, Okinawa hosts numerous colorful festivals annually that unite the local community and delight visitors with unique experiences. From joyous dances at the eisa festival to feasting on traditional dishes, these festivals will bring joy to anyone’s heart. All in all, drawing in attendees from around the world, these popular events are must-sees for anyone visiting the tropical paradise of Okinawa. Have you been to a festival in Okinawa before? Would you want to attend one? Let us know in the comments below!

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