Last year, the leadership and member-clubs of the Hawaii United Okinawa Association took a leap into the unknown and moved the Okinawan Festival from Kapi‘olani Park to the Hawai‘i Convention Center. It was an experimental year for the state’s largest ethnic festival.
It proved to be a good move as it had an estimated 56,000 attendees over the Labor Day weekend last year. Moving the event indoors to the spacious and air-conditioned convention center provided an opportunity to showcase additional activities and displays. The comfortable environment made for a smoother experience, especially for attendees with wheelchairs, walkers, strollers and — YAY! — a lot of clean restrooms
Prioritizing the health, safety and comfort of attendees, however, has substantially increased costs. So after much deliberation, HUOA is charging a modest admission fee of $2 in order to ensure the continuance of the festival. Children 12 and under, and seniors 65 and older are free. The admission fee is only needed for the Festival Floor; the third floor does not require admission.
There is also an option to purchase a festival pin for $10, which includes free admission; round trip bus shuttle service; and food coupons from Zippy’s, Tamashiro Market and Sunrise Restaurant.
Also, the festival is a fundraiser for the HUOA and its 50 clubs and represents an amazing opportunity to share our culture with the wider community. Proceeds from the festival benefit a myriad of programs, including cultural classes and programs held at the Hawaii Okinawa Center, the Hawaii-Okinawa High School Student Exchange Program, the Children’s Cultural Day Camp, the Senior Health & Wellness Fair, the Community Service Outreach Picnic and much more!
“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 businesses and buy local!
• Festival T-shirts. Make sure to add 2019’s commemorative T-shirt to your Okinawan Festival collection! The 37th 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 and its Facebook page.
•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.
• Hawaii Bonsai Association. Artistically sculptured miniature trees and plants will be displayed by association members.
•VIP Booth/Hawaii Okinawa Plaza. 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.
•‘Ölelo Community Media. ‘Ölelo Community Media has been a longtime partner of the HUOA. Learn about the different classes and skills you can learn through ‘Ölelo and learn how to take better photos and video on your own device. Sign up for ‘Ölelo classes and you too can be part of the HUOA video crew.
VISIT “THE MURA” — “THE VILLAGE” — ON THE THIRD FLOOR
• Heiwa Doori (marketplace), Room 311. 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), Room 313A & B. Browse through the wide array of original arts and crafts by local artisans and crafters.
• Bunkwa nu Shima (cultural village), Room 316A. 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). This year, there will be a special feature on Okinawan Tattos with a special book signing with Lee Tonouchi and Laura Kina – author and illustrator of “Okinawan Princess – Da Legend of Hachiji Tattoos.” There will also be historical insight into why women’s hands were tattooed and you can have your own hands tattooed, too!
• Yuimaaru — “Communities supporting one another,” Room 312. 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 Genealogical Society of Hawaii, Room 317A. OGSH members will team up with the Okinawa Prefectural Library staff to help attendees trace their Okinawan roots. Our immigrant database contains 19,000 records and covers Okinawan immigrant information from 1900-1925. We will have representatives from OPL who are able to tap into their vast records for finding relatives in Okinawa. You can also learn about the one and only Serikyaku Sashiki Flyer “made-in-Hawai‘i” airplane from Waipahu. Kids can do a make-and-take airplane. You can also purchase their short stories books filled with stories of Issei, Nisei and Sansei life experiences that took place in Hawai‘i and Okinawa. There is also a “Beginner’s Guidebook” for genealogy research. Visit the website, https://www.okinawanfestival.com/what-to-expect, and download the request form in advance.
• Okinawa Experience, Room 315. 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! Room 314. Come learn about the Hawaii United Okinawa Association’s events, clubs, classes and programs. 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.
•HUOA Volunteer Hospitality Room, Room 317B. This is the check-in point and hospitality room for all festival volunteers.
•Movie Room, Room 313C. Movies include “Jimami Tofu” (2017) a drama, romance film; and “Ryujin Mabuyer,” (2012) a super hero, action film. Also, a television episode of PBS Hawai‘i’s “Family Ingredients: Okinawa – Soki Soba.” Schedule to be determined.
• Hawai‘i Convention Center, $10 per entry (no overnight or in/out)
• Limited drop-off and pick-up area fronting the entrance on Atkinson Dr.
Shuttles to the festival are available from the McKinley High School field.
Ride share discounts are available from Friday, Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 New users can use discount code “OKIFEST2019” for $2 off their first 10 rides (up to $20 credit); existing users can use “OKIFEST19” for $5 off Lyft XL.
THE OKINAWAN FESTIVAL FOOD EXPERIENCE
The Okinawan Festival’s scrumptious selection of eats are prepared and served by HUOA volunteers at previous Okinawan Festivals. 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.
Okinawan Sweet Potato: Steamed purple Okinawan sweet potato, a homestyle favorite sold at the champuru booth.
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 booth.
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 (dried kelp), daikon (turnip), 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.
*Yakitori Bento: Two chicken skewers with rice and furikake.
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 yakitori bento.