This festival has been one that I have wanted to go to ever since we arrived in Okinawa, just over 2 years a go.
Unfortunately last year it was cancelled due to the weather and I can’t remember the reason for not going the year before but if the weather allowed I was determined to make it there this year.
The free annual event usually takes place at the Agena Bullfighting ring which is where we headed to. I had been to this area before and knew that parking was limited so we decided that leaving 2 hours before the 6 p.m. starting time was a good idea.
As it turned out it was a great idea! When we arrived we found a parking spot straight away; I was amazed. Then we found out that the venue had changed which explained the empty parking lot!
Unfortunately we weren’t quite sure where it got relocated to but had some rough directions that went something like…turn right by the tree, pass 2 family marts and then turn left.
We followed the directions to a tee, but the problem was we only passed 1 family mart before we reached a T-junction so we assumed we would take a left. Oh how wrong we were.
After an hour of driving around and around and around we decided to head back to the bullring…best decision ever.
This time we were handed a map and some new directions; turn right by the tree, turn right at the T-junction and then pass 2 family marts!
The new location was inside at the Uruma Art Theater; perfect in case of wet weather but I was also a little disappointed.
I loved the idea of sitting outside at the bullring but inside in a theatre, well it kind of took the appeal off the festival for me.
Thankfully we managed to get 3 seats and had a pretty reasonable view to watch the six shishimai groups & 1 Eisa group perform.
The costumes were amazing; a wooden lacquered head and a body of fur. In fact I am so in love with the shishi-gashira (the head) that I want to find one for my mask collection.
The dances themselves were actually a lot slower than I thought they would be but what I loved was how different each lion was in personality!
As each shishimai group was introduced we were told whether the lion was female or male and a few characteristics about the lion; aggressive, playful etc
Probably not my favorite of the festivals I have been to but pleased to have finally made it!
I am interested to see if the event will be held indoors at the Uruma Art Theatre in future years or if they will go back to the outdoor setting at Agena Bullfighting Ring.