Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Obon Weekend

The Obon holidays were this last weekend, and, as usual, I had a fantastic time (if you don't know what the heck I'm talking about, you can read my blogs about it here).

I am fairly certain these are the BEST days out of the whole Okinawa year, and while many people take advantage of the three-day-weekend to travel, there's nowhere else I'd rather be.

This is what Obon looked like for me this year:

Friday: Asato Matsuri
The festivities started on friday so I donned my new yukata (summer kimono), and walked up the road the the next neighborhood to enjoy their festival.

Javier came, too! 
Eisa dancing. Isn't he cuuute??
Here you can see my yukata. 
They even had a tiny fireworks show at the end. :D
Saturday: Hanashiro Matsuri 
For me, Saturday is the main event. I love, love, love my neighborhood's festival. It's one of my first and best memories of Okinawa, and the local grandmas always feel like a part of the community. It's just so much fun!

Posing with my self-proclaimed "Okinawan Parents," 

and the little neighbor girl. :) 

Dancing with my grannies. :)
Javier danced, too!! 

I tried to get a good picture of my Obi (the yellow bow/belt) because I tied it by myself for the first time.
This was QUITE the accomplishment. :) 

One last dance to end the night. 

Sunday: Family Dinner
For the locals, however, Sunday is the most important day of Obon. On this day, Okinawan people gather together at their family homes to share a dinner together and bid their ancestors (whose ghosts have been visiting for the weekend) farewell. I did get to experience this dinner my first year with a teacher's family, but didn't have the opportunity this year.

Monday: Shishimai 
After the ancestors have returned to their homes in the sea, some communities have one last Obon event: the Shishimai. I wrote about it more in-depth last year, and you can read that blog here.

Shishimai means "lion dance," and while the lion (or shisa) certainly does dance, I think of it as more of a parade, because it also marches all around the neighborhood as people follow behind. The main purpose of this tradition is to usher out any negative spirits that may have remained after the ancestors' departure.

One thing I love is the way the shisa is able to express so much character and emotion because of how the people inside move around and open or close the mouth.

If you look in the shisa's mouth, you can see that the man inside is having a pretty good time, too
(probably because I nearly fell over when he came charging at me). 

Of course, I love how the shisa chows down on little kids and babies to bring them good luck...

but I also love how the shisa seems to respect the elderly members of the community and dances with all the grandmas.

On that note, I love how the grandmas here really love dancing. At the end of the parade, they have yet another dance party, and they once again force me to join in. :) Not that I'm complaining.
They even form a rockin'-grandma dance circle! 
And get the little guys to dance along, too. 
My favorite interaction of the day was between this toddler and the shisa. He seemed pretty fearless standing up to the big lion, until the lion came at him with his mouth wide open:
gif animator
Then he was like, "Time to GTFO!"
Also, please note the anpanman on his hiney. Ha!
(If the embedding doesn't work, you can see it here)

As you can see, I had a really amazing weekend. I hope this isn't my last year in Japan, because I'd love to do it all over again next year.


  1. Both you and Javier look great! And the Shishimai!!!! I miss Okinawa.