Obon is a three (sometimes stretched to four) day Okinawa holiday which honors the spirits of their ancestors. On the evening of the first day, Okinawan families open their doors at dusk and leave gifts of food to welcome the ancestor spirits into their homes. The next day is given to celebrations, feasting and rituals and the evening of the last day is the farewell of the spirits where Eisa drummers and dancers wish the spirits well as they return to they’re resting place.
I’ve known about Obon for three years now.
In our old house in Okinawa City, I remember listening to the young men practicing their drumming at night. It was a steady, peaceful sound. I once even walked to the Okinawa City Junior High School where they practiced and watched them.
But I never went to a festival or a parade to watch them perform.
It’s always the same excuse for us…the parking is confusing, it’s too late at night for the kids, the crowds are overwhelming…blah blah
But THIS year, I decided that I was no longer going to let inconvenience hinder me from experiencing everything I could about this island and its culture!! And even better…there was an Eisa parade IN Yomitan (only 2 miles from our house) and it was on a Saturday at 3. PERFECT!
So E, Little G and I packed up to go in the car, find some parking and hit the parade.
And as we exited our house we heard a constant drumming sound…a sound that was louder than it should have been if it was two miles away…closer…wait…could this be an Eisa troop in our very own community? In the day time?
Change of plans! We packed up the stroller instead and followed our ears.
And we found them!!
So this is the Eisa troop that goes through our part of town (Toya) drumming and dancing the spirits away! THIS is what I wanted to be a part of…community Obon celebration in my neighborhood! I was giggling most of the time…
They might’ve thought I was a loon because we were the only Americans watching and we followed them to a couple of places, and I just kept smiling!
But THIS was my FAVORITE!!
See this little woman above? She used to be an Eisa dancer when she was younger. She danced right along with the girls and teased the boys. I was so tickled by her sassy personality!
After the third performance, I started walking home (at this point by myself because Adam took the kids home after the second session) and I began to pass this same little Japanese woman who was talking to some friends. As I smiled as said konichiwa, she left her friends, grabbed my arm and began walking with me as if we were old friends. She talked and talked to me in Japanese (which of course, I could not understand and when I said as much, she slapped me…as if she were my very own grandma). I walked her all the way to her house, her hand on my arm, and reluctantly departed. Oh how I wish I could speak Japanese! It would be so wonderful to have a neighborhood Grandma here to giggle with and love on…
Happy (late) Obon!