Last year I saw a couple of advertisements for a festival taking place mid-December, however I never paid too much attention to it simply because it was in December and I knew we would be pretty busy with our usual Christmas festivities.
A few weeks later a good friend messaged me this link saying that an Okinawan friend highly recommended going to it and did we want to go…so of course we said yes!
I did absolutely no research prior to going so I really wasn’t sure what to expect but assumed and hoped it was going to be great since tickets weren’t exactly cheap.
The Uruma Sparkling Festival was being held at the all-weather Uruma City multipurpose dome usually used for bullfighting. A large stage was constructed within the ring which meant everyone got a great view due to the 360degree seating.
The doors opened at 4.30pm, and had we not got lost (are you surprised) we would have been there close to that time, however by the time we actually found the place, and then the parking (which was located down by the water with bus transportation provided to get to the dome) we only got to the venue for 6pm; luckily our friends saved us some awesome seats!
Which was still plenty of time for Matt to make a stop at the numerous food stalls lined up outside, selling the usual delicious festival type food.
If you have ever been to this arena for bullfighting you will know that the seating isn’t comfortable with it just being concrete, but for this performance they had laid out cushions in various colors to provide some comfort…although after a few hours what little comfort was provided was long gone!
On to the show…it was AMAZING and worth every single penny spent.
According to the program; which is given out free on arrival (although entirely in Japanese) there were about 19 performers (individuals and groups) however from memory some of these performed together, so I can’t tell you how many ‘acts’ there were altogether, but there were plenty!
The show (or festival) opened with calligraphy artist, Taba Tamamidori and then we got our first glimpse of the dragon which put on a fabulous Dragon dance based on the ancient Ryukyu lore. There were performances from Ryukyu Kingdom Festival Drums (who have performed all over the world including New York Carnegie Hall) as well as various youth groups. We loved the lion dance, as well as the mock bull fight, all the different styles of dances and of course the drums.
While I don’t know who these artists are I believe they are well known within Okinawa/Japan…Aria, a violinist, Sunrise Katsu who played an ancient guitar, and guitarist Kuniyoshi Ryo; whom according to the website is constantly at the forefront of the Okinawa music world, to name a few.
Even though everyone, regardless of where you were sitting, had a great view of the stage, the performers often came into the crowd. For the longest time we had one of the shisa’s sitting just meters away and Clio would have loved to go ‘meet’ him but just as Matt decided to take her, he left.
The girls (and the 3 other children who we were with) all thoroughly enjoyed it and only a couple of times did Clio loose interest; usually on the slower numbers which was pleasantly surprising since the show started AFTER her bedtime. I asked Eden what her favorite act was and she couldn’t decide between the drums, dragons, bulls or the shisa’s.
When the epic show finished we got up to leave and noticed everyone carrying their cushions, we assumed we needed to return them somewhere until Matt asked and was informed that they were taking them home. We all looked at each other then decided to grab a few ourselves! My initial thought was that they would be great for future events at this venue (we have yet to go see the bullfighting) but ended up tying them to our hardwood dining room chairs!
The lines to get the bus back down to the water were quite long so we decided to start walking back…once we reached a main road the guys carried on to get the cars while we remained with the kids. I didn’t actually take notice how long it took them to return, but it wasn’t long, I think we still would have been waiting in the line for the bus had we decided to stay.
According to the website in 2013 the “Introduce Uruma” project was created to promote tourism to the region during winter months, it also stated that the 2014 performance was going to be produced on an even greater scale than the last one. I did a little research to see if this is going to be an annual event and according to their Facebook page on December 21st they posted this “Next time we are scheduled to be held after one year” (thank you to google translate) which is fantastic news, as it looks as though it will be an annual event.
As for the cost, like I said it is a little pricer than other festivals, which are often free, but this is much more than festival it is a musical production.
Our friends arranged our tickets in advance for us, through Family Mart and the advance ticket price was 2,500 Yen per adult and 1,000 per child (if pre-school age children sit on your lap then they are free).
However the option to purchase at the door is available with a cost of 3,000 Yen per adult and 1,500 per child.
So, if your in Okinawa and see this festival being advertised don’t just ignore it like I originally did, go see it, its worth it!