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    Photo By Yoshie Makiyama | The eisa members from the Jaagaru Youth Association perform on the street of Camp...... read more read more



    Story by Yoshie Makiyama 

    Marine Corps Installations Pacific

    What is the easiest way to break through barriers between two different cultures with completely different languages? One way Marines and their families experience Okinawan culture is through festivals, where the U.S. military and local communities can come together and appreciate music and dance despite the difference in languages.

    On Aug. 21, 2022, even though it was evening, the sun still far above the horizon, there was a gathering of people in a parking lot.

    In one corner of the area, people in a unique outfit also gathered. Some had large, barrel-looking drums and some had smaller drums. A group of females were also seen in outfits similar to Japanese traditional summer kimono, called Yukata.

    The eisa members from the Jaagaru Youth Association from Chatan Town were about to perform. What was odd here was the location where they would perform eisa. It was not on the street or parking lot of a Japanese district, it was on Camp Lester, a U.S. Marine Corps base in Okinawa.

    For the first time, Camps Foster and Lester invited a local eisa group to perform. Although such a performance could be seen on stage at base festivals, "michijune," the drum performance marching through the street alongside the residential areas on base, was new.

    "Col. Banning invited us," said Toru Tokuzato, the district mayor of Jaagaru, Chatan Town. "I heard this is the first time anyone has done 'michijune' on base. We were excited to have such an opportunity but also a little anxious," Tokuzato, however, was relieved to see a large audience with a welcoming atmosphere.

    Since Okinawan Obon, fell on Aug. 10 - 12, 2022, was approaching and Col. David M. Banning, camp commander for Camps Foster and Lester, was familiar with local cultures due to his Okinawan wife, he suggested having a live eisa performance on base. To bring the local culture to base and have military families enjoy a taste of Okinawan culture without going outside the base.

    Eisa is one of the traditional performing arts of Okinawa and is an Okinawan folk dance centering on taiko drums. In Okinawa, on the three nights of Obon in the lunar calendar, young people from each district parade through the community while dancing to honor the spirits of their ancestors.

    During Obon, people in Japan believe the spirits of their deceased ancestors come back to spend time with their family. The dates and duration of Obon vary from region to region, but they do not change every year. However, the dates of Obon in Okinawa change every year because of the lunar calendar.

    The group was to perform at Camp Lester, Camp Foster, and Plaza Housing. They started at 5 p.m., then moved to the next location. They needed to load and unload the huge speakers that carry the sound of the Sanshin, three-stringed Okinawan lute, played by the singers from the truck each time.

    Although they stayed at one place to perform at Camp Lester, they marched through the residential area at Camp Foster and Plaza Housing.

    Due to their thorough performance at Camp Foster, the eisa group was behind schedule. "It doesn't bother me, I know it will be worth waiting," said a spectator waiting on Plaza Housing, who had never seen an eisa drum dance before.

    At 7 p.m., when the sun finally began to set, and even though it was more than 30 minutes late, still no sign of the eisa group. However, more people came and the street got crowded. When the eisa group arrived, people cheered and clapped their hands in excitement. Children followed and chased the eisa performers with their eyes sparkling with joy.

    "We were excited about today's performance but also worried," said Youhei Nakandakari, a big drum dancer, drenched with sweat. "Because Americans don't have eisa in their culture, we were not sure if they would have a good time watching us, but they actually give us great cheers and applause, so we are also having fun performing."

    Staff Sgt. Ethan A. Coro, a watch commander with Provost Marshal’s Office, Headquarters and Support Battalion, came to see the eisa with his family after his wife saw a post of this cultural event on Camps Foster and Lester Facebook. Although they had been in Okinawa for over six months, they had never seen eisa in person.

    "It's so beautiful and I almost got chills," Coro's wife exclaimed. "It's good for everybody to see and understand the culture and what it's all about." Her 10-year-old son who had been chasing after the performers nodded with a big smile.

    She expressed her thought that sometimes people are scared to go off base to see things but getting used to seeing different cultures like this on base could encourage more people to go off base and enjoy Okinawa’s culture.

    "Because now we have a chance to see such a performance, it makes me want to learn what eisa is all about and its deep roots in Okinawan culture," said Coro. "This is the way to start learning other cultures."

     言語が全く異なる2つの文化の壁を越えるには、どのような方法が最も簡単だろうか。 海兵隊員とその家族が沖縄の文化を体験する方法の一つとしては、米軍と地域社会が一緒になって、たとえ言葉が違っても音楽や踊りを共に楽しむことができるというお祭りがある。


     その一角には、一風変わった格好をした人たちも集まっていた。樽状の大きな太鼓を持った人、小さな太鼓を持った人。 日本の夏の伝統的な着物、浴衣のような衣装を着た女性のグループも見受けられた。



     北谷町謝苅区の徳里徹区長は、「バニング大佐が招待してくれました。基地内で 『道ジュネー』をするのは初めてと聞いています。こんな機会が与えられて嬉しい反面、不安もありました」と語りつつ、多くの観客が集まり、歓迎ムードに包まれていることに安堵した様子。










     「あまりの素晴らしさに身震いがしました」とコロ二等軍曹の妻は絶賛。「みんなに見てもらい、その国の文化を理解してもらうのことはいいことだと思います。」 エイサー隊を追いかけていた10歳の息子も、満面の笑みを浮かべながらうなずいた。






    Date Taken: 01.18.2023
    Date Posted: 04.19.2023 20:10
    Story ID: 442886
    Location: OKINAWA, JP

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