Like never before, the riches of the Okinawa culture were experienced by Houston and its Japanese community during the 2011 Japan Festival. Sitting proudly as Japan’s southern most prefecture, Okinawa blends well with the Japanese culture, but it does carry a very distinct identity. An identity developed in the days of it’s sovereignty as the Ryukyu Kingdom.
Before; the Okinawa Cultural Association of Texas has participated in the Japan Festival with a merchandise booth and members performing traditional music and Eisa festival dance. In the last few years Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko – Texas Branch has emerged, trilling crowds with its high powered performance style of Eisa drum and dance. But this year their effort to share the Okinawa culture has flowered to new levels.
The Okinawa Cultural Association of Texas took on the chore of running a food booth. As in an all ventures of this sort, the main objective was making money to put toward special projects. But OCATexas wanted to do this with a distinctive Okinawan flare. So a menu of Taco Rice and Okinawan donuts was decided on.
Then Yuri-san crafted aprons and head covering for the ladies out of material with a very colorful Okinawan print. Posters and banners were also displayed showing all sorts of Okinawan heritage and things of interest. On top of all this a real live sanshin player was stationed in front of the booth playing traditional Okinawan music.
Everyone will now admit that; with getting permits and passing daily city inspections running a food booth was more detailed and required more work than anyone could have imagined.
But everyone walked away with a good feeling; a good enough feeling that all profits were donated to the Japan tsunami relief fund.
Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko – Texas Branch had wanted to get back to their traditional Eisa roots for quite some time. And there seemed no better time that at the 2011 Houston Japan festival. So prior to their performance, they assembled on the other side of Hermann Park from where the stage was located. Houston’s Japan Festival was about to be treated to a good old fashion Eisa procession; the way it is done back in Okinawa. For more about RMDT’s performance see “RMDTexas - Japan Festival 2011”.
But the crowning jewel of the Okinawan culture in this year’s Japan Festival was the Houston debut of Miyagi Ryu NoSho Kai - a particularly momentous event for the members from Houston. This was the first showcase performance in Houston for the classical dance of Okinawa. The Houston members had performed here before but it was always as part of an RMDTexas performance or just the entertainment portion of another event. Here, Miyagi Ryu NoSho Kai was the show; they would be able to take their time and set the stage properly for the classical dance of Okinawa. For more on Miyagi Ryu’s performance see “Miyagi Ryu NoSho Kai - Japan Festival 2011”.
The Japanese community in Houston totally embraced and cherished the vibrant culture of their southernmost prefecture at Houston’s Japan Festival 2011. And with the presentations of Okinawan food, music, Eisa and classical dance; OCAT, RMDT and Miyagi Ryu must have made the ancestors of the Ryukyu Kingdom very proud that day.
A special thanks to our contributing photographer;
Allison - allison_b216's photostream