10,000 Eisa Dance Parade

1 Aug

Boom. Boom. Boom.

Silence comes over us as we hear the first dramatic sounds of drums in the distance. We stand waiting.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

The Eisa dancers and taiko drummers approach. Suddenly their deafening melody overtakes the crowd.

In Okinawa at the July, thousands of children and adults participate in a dazzling community ritual. En masse, islanders perform traditional Buddhist songs and dances to honor ancestral spirits. This human collective is a grand memorial service and signals the end of Obon, a festival time when it is believed that loved ones who have died return to their families.

During Obon, Okinawans visit ancestor’s tombs, leave rice and money as libations, and take care not to swim in the ocean, as it is feared that spirits may grab onto one’s ankles and not let go. The Obon tradition dates back 1,000 years.

Today, the parade is symbolic of the island’s unwavering commitment to ancient local traditions. 65 years after its demise in World War II, Okinawa is still caught between the outside interests of Japan and an American occupying force.

Amid the cheering crowd and sounds of the drums, my new life here hits me once again.

I’m an American expat living in Okinawa, and today, I’m lucky to witness an ancient tradition thriving in this modern changing world.

This post has been entered in the GranTourismo Travel Blog Contest for July 2010.

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One Response to “10,000 Eisa Dance Parade”

  1. lara dunston August 2, 2010 at 1:29 am #

    Hi there – is this your entry to our Grantourismo travel blogging competition? Can you please link directly to us from above so it appears in the list of trackbacks at the end fo our Competition and our judges can find your entry? I’ll add the link in the comments at the end of the post too.

    Good luck!

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