Location: Gushikawa Memorial Park, April 2017

The Obon season concluded while I was in Hawai‘i, volunteering with the Okinawa Prefectural Library staff at the Okinawan Festival. Several Uchinanchu who were in Hawai‘i on work-related projects in late August rushed back to Okinawa by Sept. 3 in order to be home for Obon. Most of them were chönan, or eldest sons, in the family.

Shi-mi is somewhat related to Obon in that we pay our respects to our departed loved ones, although at a different time of the year. Shi-mi is known as the “Tomb Sweeping Festival” and is held in April.

Okinawans visit the burial tombs, or ohaka, of their ancestors to pay their respects. Depending on the family’s schedule, the observance can stretch into May, as well. It’s the one time of the year when relatives gather to clean the tombs and eat lunch at the tomb site after first offering the food to their ancestors. If your family tomb is located in an area overgrown with bushes and weeds, you might find poisonous habu snakes while cleaning the site, so you have to be careful.

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