by Devon Sponheimer
In our first part we introduced you to the southern islands of Japan that make up Okinawa, filled with rich history,tropical beaches, and an amazing escape from some of the metropolises of Japan. Today we conclude Japlanning's Okinawa guide with Part 2, a look into the many festivals and cultural events that happen throughout the year in Okinawa.
Okinawa is known for its tropical setting, a place where the Japanese come to relax, unwind, and soak up the sun. However, what many don't know is that Okinawa has year round festivals and cultural events, so no mater when you you visit you are likely to experience some of there fantastic Matsuri (Japanese for festival).
Today Japlanning have the definitive guide to festivals, events and cultural highlights you can experience, there’s always something happening in Okinawa! From January until December, check out some of these cultural highlights:
- Shurijo Castle Park New Year's Banquet — An reenactment event of the traditional ceremony originally held early in the morning on New Year's Day during the Ryukyu Kingdom era.
- Spring festivals featuring orchids, azaleas and more!
- Beach Opening— Soak up the sun and feel the ocean breeze at the world's most beautiful beaches!
- Ryukyu Kaiensai (Fireworks Festival)— Japan’s first summer fireworks festival at the beach! (Japanese official site here)
- All Japan Triathlon Miyakojima
- Naha Dragon-boat Race—A traditional dragon-boat race in Naha, held during the Golden Week holidays.
- Giant Kite Festival — Also held during golden week, point your eyes to the sky and see these massive kites fly.
- Haarii Festival (Traditional dragon-boat race)—Haarii is a festival of fishermen to express thanks for the blessings of the sea and to wish for a safe return with an abundant catch.
- Ocean Expo Park Summer Festival, Sea Port Chatan Carnival, Urasoe Tedako Festival & Nago Summer Festival
- Ginowan Hagoromo Festival—Traditional Ryukyu King Satto's Parade, Dance "Kachasii" all night at Ginowan City's Summer Festival.
- The Yonabaru Great Tug of War—Okinawa’s famous Tug of War!
- Summer Festival in Naha with 10,000 People Gathering for the Eisa Dance— everyone can participate!
- Southern Star Festival — A starry sky observation society viewing the Milky Way with lights turned off around the whole of Ishigakijima.
- All-Okinawa Eisa Festival—The Biggest Eisa Festival!
- Itoman Great Tug of War—A tug-of-war competition to mark the end of the summer.
- Naha Great Tug of War Festival—Come join the world's biggest Tug of War, mentioned in the Guiness Book of World Records.
- Ryukyu no Saiten / All-Island Hatagashira Festival—Immerse yourself in Okinawan culture and world's performing arts!
- Shishi-mai (Lion Dance) Festival—Shi-Shi-Mai dancers from all corners of Okinawa gather to showcase their dynamic moves.
- Ceramics Festival
- Shurijo Castle Festival—Travel Back in time with Captivating Parade of Ryukyu Dynasty
- Tour de Okinawa—Yanbaru is the stage for Okinawa's biggest cycling Road Race.
- Okinawa International Carnival—Fun filled festival with international flavors at Okinawa City!
- Ritou Fair (Islands Exhibition)—This is a perfect opportunity to discover everything about the other islands.
- The Naha Marathon—One of the largest citizens' marathons in Japan. Loud cheers from the roadside.
- The Mabuni Fire & Bell Observance— A solemn festival held from New Year's Eve into New Year's Day, offering prayers to those who were lost at war.
As you can see there is always something happing in Okinawa, where you can experience unique parts of the culture these islands hold. Throughout the year you can experience nature being celebrated, to historical events that have centuries of traditional ingrained into the ceremony and celebration. Be sure to check out any of the festivities and events happening when you visit Okinawa, for an experience you'll never forget.