Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Eisa Dancers Take Kokusai Street

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Dan, Nefredia, and Rock
Kokusai Street runs through the heart of Naha, the capital of Okinawa. Back in the day it was a laid back venue of places to eat and little shops where one could load up on tourist junk. Today it still caters to tourists, and many places selling junk souvenirs abound, but my how the street has changed! It is not nearly as quaint now as it was then. There are buildings along Kokusai that are several stories tall, and many of the cafes are definitely upscale.

There is even a multi-story McDonald's on Kokusai Street. When I came here in 1972, Okinawa had one fast food American joint - an A&W Rootbeer Drive-In, and when I left nearly two years later the island had also acquired its first Kentucky Fried Chicken. We had to go to Tokyo before we encountered a McDonald's - and it was just a serving window in a high-toned area of the Ginza.

Eisa Dancers on Kokusai Street in Naha
Today I spent the afternoon on Kokusai with some friends from work. Our group consisted of two other social workers besides myself (Laura and Nefredia), two psychologists (Dan and Elizabeth), Elizabeth's boyfriend, a marine named John, and an airman and new mother (Stephanie). We went there to see the annual Eisa Street Festival, and amazing event featuring a purported 10,000 drummers/dancers. These folk artists were mostly young people ranging in age from three or four to young adults. They formed up in units of twenty or thirty individuals each, and put on shows up and down Kokusai. It was truly and entertaining experience.

(Boone, I will be getting us an Eisa drum while I am here - a big one - and a big stick to bang it with!)

Eisa Dancer
We drove to a parking garage in Naha and then made our way to the monorail station by walking through a large mall. The monorail is fairly new to Naha and plays a key role in moving people around the city in an efficient manner. Our ride on the monorail was 200 yen each way, which is around two and a half dollars.

We began our afternoon on Kokusai with lunch at a mini-brewery. After that we walked out onto the crowded street where it took me all of five minutes to become separated from the group. Fortunately, they decided to send out search parties and I was located about an hour later. (It's a good thing, too, because John told me that a taxi ride back to the base would have been over a hundred dollars! (I now have a local cell phone that I haven't figured out how to use. One member of our group called me several times, but the street was so noisy that I couldn't hear it ringing!) Fortunately I am getting old enough that being kidnapped and sold into slavery is no longer a risk
Eisa Dancer on Break with his Drum

I did buy a purple ice cream cone while I was lost. I just pointed at a picture to order, and I have no idea what the flavor was - but I think that it might have been sweet potato.

It was a nice afternoon, and I was so happy to get off of base for awhile. Enjoy the photos!

1 comment:

  1. I now know how you look like presently. Thank you for the photos. I think the purple ice cream you had indeed contains as an ingredient some substance from a type of sweet potatoes calles "murasaki(=puple) imo(=potato)".