The 56th annual Zento Eisa Matsuri (festival) was this weekend. We only managed to go Friday night, but it was worth it! They closed what the Americans call Gate 2 street (which if you’ve been here, you know it’s a crazy, busy street on Friday nights!), for the evening. Crowds lined the street to watch the Eisa dancing. It’s something to see! Rather than me try to explain it, just watch the video I took. There were 3 different groups dancing at one time, so it was impossible to see everything, but we did manage to watch a few different ones.
What is Eisa?
Eisa, which is equivalent of Bon odori on mainland Japan, is one of Okinawa’s traditional performance arts. Mainly youth youth associations in each community have their own distinct form and dance along the streets of the community on the night of old bon. Most of the youth associations form “Drums eisa” centering on Odaiko large barrel drums, Shimedaiko medium-sized drums, which are most active in central Okinawa. In recent years, many “Original Eisa” groups have gained popularity, which adopted eisa forms, using pop music, and originative costumes.
The Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri began in 1956 as a contest. Postwar, when many were still depressed from the war, they decided to cheer themselves up with eisa. The contest was abolished in 1977 and turned into a festival.