Okinawan Festival is today and Saturday

  • Photo courtesy Hui Alu

    The Shishimai, or lion-dog dance, will be performed at the Kauai Okinawan Festival on May 4 and 5 at Kauai Veterans Center.

  • Photo courtesy Hui Alu

    The cultural festival will feature Okinawa music and dance from artists like Brianne Yamada and Kerry Yamauchi, who performed during last year’s event.

  • Photo courtesy Hui Alu

    The Kauai Okinawan Festival will feature simple offerings of authentic dishes such as champuru, stir fried vegetables without meat, May 4 and 5 at Kauai Veterans Center.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / TG!FRIDAY file photo

    A visiting sanshin, or Okinawa three-stringed instrument, group performs during the Okinawa festival presented by the Hui Alu Okinawa Club, last year at the Kauai Veterans Center.

Enjoy and experience Okinawan culture, food and dance while benefiting Kauai’s very own Okinawan club, Hui Alu.

The 2018 Kauai Okinawan Festival takes place tonight and Saturday at Kauai Veterans Center.

“We bring many performers to Kauai from Oahu to enhance the experience,” said Kent Yamauchi, Hui Alu Kauai club president. “These performers love coming to Kauai, and we embrace the support they offer. Traditional sanshin (three-stringed instrument), odori (dancing) and eisa (drumming) performances will entertain our guests both nights.”

Live performances will feature traditional music by Afuso-Ryu Ongaku, Bon dancing, Taiko drumming by Hawaii Eisa Shinyuu Kai, plantation worker folk songs by Allison Arakawa, classical music of Tamagusuku Ryu Senju Kai with Shihan Frances Nakachi, Shishimai lion dance, and Kachashi.

“Kachashi is free-form Okinawan dancing, everyone is invited to participate,” said first-time event organizer, Jonathan Chun. “It’s a competition between the dancers and the musicians. The musicians will play this traditional Kachashi music, then they dance to see who can last the longest. Either the dancers can dance longer or the musicians can sing and play longer.”

Kachashi is typically the ending dance of any Okinawan festival, however there will be much dancing and music leading up to the event finale. There will also be a country store offering plants, vegetables, and baked goods. And don’t forget to sample the authentic dishes and popular foods of Okinawa.

“Festival attendees can look forward to enjoying andagi (round donuts), rafute or Okinawan shoyu pork, ashitibichi (pig feet soup), yakisoba (stir fried noodles with vegetables), Okinawan soba (noodles with broth), and champuru (stir fried vegetables), which will be included in all our entree plates,” Yamauchi said.

Traditional crafters, along with bonsai and cultural displays, will be showcased inside the Veterans Center. The Japanese Club from Kapaa High School will also be making and providing Japanese charms as a service to the participants.

“The Okinawan culture and dance has a long, long history here on Kauai and in Hawaii, and like all cultures people tend to forget,” Chun said. “Kauai has a very close relationship with Okinawa, and this really just helps solidify our longstanding relationship.”

The popular cultural event began in the late 1980s in Kapaa Town Park and has continued every other year into the ’90s at Kukui Grove Pavilion before relocating to the current location at Kauai Veterans Center in 2004.

“The focus is sharing and perpetuating the Okinawa culture,” Yamauchi said, “remembering and treasuring yesterday, working for today while developing and inspiring for tomorrow.”

Admission is free. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. both days.

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John Steinhorst, reporter, can be reached at 245-0435 or jsteinhorst@thegardenisland.com.

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