This year’s Okinawan Festival is truly a gutsy endeavor — as was the move to Kapi‘olani Park back in 1990. No one knew for certain whether it would take. Or flop. But as most of us know, if we don’t try, we’ll never know. And that is why the leadership and member-clubs of the Hawaii United Okinawa Association decided to move their biggest outreach event of the year to the Hawai‘i Convention Center.
There will be some aspects of this year’s festival that you’ll love — and some that you won’t. An indoor facility cannot replicate the natural ambiance of a park. Unlike Kapi‘olani Park, where the festival was spread out on the Waikïkï end of the park, activities this year will be on two floors of the Hawai‘i Convention Center — the ground floor for the entertainment, food booths and some shopping opportunities, and the third floor — “The Mura” — for the cultural activities.
Over the years, the summertime heat and humidity had become increasingly unbearable. Year after year, I saw ambulances turning into the park and driving off to emergency rooms with people — a good number of them elderly — suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion. That is dangerous.
So, personally, I’m looking forward to the air-conditioned Hawai‘i Convention Center; the extra seating; the flat and even flooring; the escalators and elevators; and the many more — and cleaner — restrooms. You have a few weeks to read through this, the Herald’s annual Okinawan Festival issue, and plan out your visit to the Okinawan Festival . . . at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.
“THE FESTIVAL” ON THE EXHIBIT FLOOR
• Entertainment (main stage). Seating for 600 will be provided to watch the various performances throughout the day: odori (dance), koto, sanshin, karate and more. Eisä and taiko clubs are also in the program line-up, along with Okinawan line dancing and special performing artists from Okinawa.
• Opening Ceremony Parade. One of the most impressive sights of the Okinawan Festival is the opening ceremony parade on Saturday morning. It’ll make your heart swell with pride. The parade will begin at 10:35 a.m. Marchers will proudly carry the colorful banners of the HUOA’s 50 member-clubs into the room. They will be accompanied to the main stage by paranku (small hand-held drum) players, shishimai (Okinawan lion dance) and chondara (Okinawan clown-like characters who double as parade marshals).
• Machi-Gwa (Country Store). Bring your reusable shopping bags and fill them with fresh, locally grown vegetables, fruits and other delicious treats to eat! Enjoy a refreshing mason jar of plantation tea as you browse. Support our local farmers and buy local!
• Hanagi Machi Gwa (Plants). Choose from a wide selection of potted plants and flowers that will be available for purchase, such as orchids, water lilies, succulents, vegetables and fruits. Find the perfect addition to your houseplant collection and outdoor garden.
• Warabi Ashibi (children at play). Children’s activities will include popular inflatables and games on the exhibit floor. Various photo opportunities will be available on both The Festival and The Mura floors.
• Capital Campaign/VIP Booth. The Hawaii Okinawa Plaza is up and ready for business. Celebrate with us and learn more about this project, aimed at securing the financial future of the HUOA. Updates from the HOP committee will be displayed. Also, visit with the local and Okinawa partners who helped make this dream come true.
• Hawaii Bonsai Association. Artistically sculptured miniature trees and plants will be displayed by association members.
• Okinawa Genealogical Society of Hawaii. OGSH members will team up with the Okinawa Prefectural Library staff to help attendees trace their Okinawan roots. Visit the Okinawan Festival website https://www.okinawanfestival.com/what-to-expect. Click on the Booths button and scroll until you find Cultural Village (Bunkwa Nu Shima). There is a link to download the request form in advance.
VISIT “THE MURA” — “THE VILLAGE” — ON THE THIRD FLOOR
• Festival T-shirts. Make sure to add 2018’s extra special commemorative T-shirt celebrating the move to the Hawaii Convention Center to your Okinawan Festival collection! The 36th Okinawan Festival T-shirt is available in men’s, men’s tank top, women’s and youth sizes. Designs will be posted on the festival website, www.okinawanfestival.com amd its Facebook page.
• Bunkwa nu Shima (cultural village). Improve your knowledge of Okinawan culture and trace your roots. The Bunkwa nu Shima will feature a variety of displays and activities highlighting Okinawan culture, including musical instruments, calligraphy, shimakutuba (Okinawan language), and kimono and paranku dressing and professional picture taking (available for a fee).
Returning exhibitors will include the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa Center for Okinawan Studies and the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i. A new Mini Day Camp Center will showcase activities children learned at the summer camp.
• Heiwa Doori (marketplace). Experience Hawai‘i’s version of Okinawa’s famous Heiwa Doori in Naha. Specialty foods from Okinawa will be on sale, such as konbu (dried kelp), göyä-cha (bitter melon tea), Okinawa soba noodles, andagi mix, shïkwasa (Okinawan lemon-lime) juice, kokuto (black sugar candy) and more.
• Ti Jukuishina-Mushimun (Arts & Crafts Gallery). Browse through the wide array of original arts and crafts by local artisans and crafters.
• “Yuimaaru” — “Communities supporting one another.” Gain insight into the history of the Okinawan community in Hawai‘i. There will be exhibits on Hawai‘i’s Okinawan-owned restaurants; the Battle of Okinawa; the pigs that were purchased with money raised in Hawai‘i and shipped to Okinawa to restart their decimated hog farming industry; and the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Museum. Storyteller Alton Takiyama Chung will bring the stories of the Himeyuri nurses and the pig transport story to life.
• Okinawa!! Browse through the Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau’s colorful display of places to see and experience on your next — or first? — trip to Okinawa. Talk story with our visitors from Okinawa and members of Hawaii Okinawa Creative Arts and get a close-up look at their shiisa! Also, take advantage of the opportunity to get a sanshin from an authentic sanshin shop.
• We are HUOA! Come learn about the Hawaii United Okinawa Association and its work in the community with clubs, schools and other partners. Learn how you can become a member of HUOA. HUOA logo and gift shop items will be available for purchase along with selected Okinawan artifacts. All proceeds benefit HUOA programs.
• Blue Zone Okinawa. Learn about Okinawan longevity and what Windward and Wahiawä communities are doing to live longer and healthier. Blood pressure screening will be available. Also, sign up to support the bone marrow registry. Okinawa’s Meio University researchers will be following up with new surveys on Alzheimer’s disease.
• Hiyamikasa! — Rallying Together for Everyone’s Success. This is the check-in point and hospitality room for all festival volunteers. Tell your friends to meet you at Hiyamikasa!
NEW THIS YEAR: TWO OKINAWAN-THEMED FILMS
HUOA is partnering with the Okinawan Convention & Visitors Bureau to show two films, one a feature film and the other a documentary, at this year’s Okinawan Festival. The films — “Jimami Tofu” and “Art Island Okinawa” — will be shown in the Emmalani Theater (Room 320) on The Mura level (third floor). Both movies are in English and/or have English subtitles.
Tickets will be available at the “box office table” outside of the theater. Ticket sales will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 1, and continue through the festival.
“JIMAMI TOFU” — Admission: $5
Screenings: Saturday, Sept. 1, 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 2, 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Synopsis: A Chinese Singaporean chef who previously worked in Tökyö finds himself in Okinawa, pleading with a disgruntled old chef to teach him how to cook traditional Okinawan food. A top Japanese food critic finds herself in Singapore on an eye-opening discovery of Southeast Asian cuisine. In reality, both are looking for each other after an emotional breakup years earlier when she left him without a trace. Emotionally crippled by their breakup, he searches for her in her hometown, but discovers instead the art of traditional Okinawan food and her childhood best friend. Family secrets unravel and when she suddenly appears in Okinawa hopng to find closure, he cooks and serves her their final meal. Through it, she discovers what she has been yearning for all these years.
“ART ISLAND OKINAWA” — Free, but ticket required for admission.
Screenings: Saturday, Sept. 1, 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 2, 9:30 a.m.
Synopsis: Meet four artists in Okinawa and learn how each is contributing to preserving the rich cultural history of the Ryükyü Kingdom.
• Traditional Okinawan crafts: Bingata, featuring Eiichi Shiroma of Shiroma Bingata (16th generation)
• Fashion: Designs that bring out Okinawan dyeing, featuring fashion designer Kanna Yamauchi
• Pottery made from 100 percent Okinawan soil, featuring potter Paul Lorimer
• Pointillist: Portraits of Okinawa gods, featuring pointillist Kiyota Oshiro
THE OKINAWAN FESTIVAL FOOD EXPERIENCE
If you were wondering whether the Okinawan Festival’s move to the Hawai‘i Convention Center would mean an end to the scrumptious selection of eats prepared and served by HUOA volunteers at previous Okinawan Festivals, fear not. All of your usual Festival favorites will be available once again, including many dishes served in the kitchens of Okinawan families. Spend a day — or both days — at the Okinawan Festival and make sure you try everything!
* Andagi: Okinawan deep fried doughnut — a local favorite!
* Andadog: Okinawan version of the corndog — basically, a hot dog on a stick that is dipped in andagi batter and deep-fried. Mmmmmm!
Champuru Plate: If you love Okinawan food, you will love this plate! Sliced vegetables, luncheon meat and deep-fried tofu are stir-fried champuru-style and served with your choice of white or brown rice, shoyu pork and andamisu (a miso sauce cooked with finely chopped pork). New items this year include vegetarian champuru and steamed Okinawan sweet potato.
Okidog: A hot dog covered with chili and wrapped in a soft tortilla with shredded shoyu pork and lettuce. So delicious!
Chili & Rice: Chili & rice in a bowl. Sold at the Okidog tent.
Chili Frank Plate: Chili & rice plate served with a hot dog. Sold at the Okidog tent.
Chicken Plate: Barbeque chicken prepared local style and served with hot rice and corn, or just chicken in a carry out bag.
Pig’s Feet Soup: Pig’s feet cooked in soup stock and garnished with konbu seaweed, daikon (radish), togan (squash) and mustard cabbage and served with hot rice. In Uchinaaguchi (Okinawan language), it’s called ashitibichi and is a traditional family favorite!
* Okinawa Soba: Okinawan-style soba noodles served in hot soup and garnished with kamaboko (fishcake), shoyu pork, green onions and red ginger.
Yakisoba: Okinawan-style soba noodles stir-fried with vegetables and luncheon meat, and seasoned with a special chef’s sauce.
Yakitori Stick: Chicken skewers grilled to perfection with teriyaki sauce.
* Maki Sushi: Sushi rice rolled in nori (seaweed) and sliced for easy eating. Sold at the Yakitori, Okinawa Soba and Chicken booths.
Coffee: Andagi and coffee — available hot or iced — are a perfect combo!
* Festival Bon Dance heads up: The following food booths will be open until 8 p.m. during the Saturday night Bon Dance: Andagi, Andadog, Okinawa Soba and Maki Sushi.