Okinawa Day Report 21 June

IMG_3805psIf you were in Shoreditch on Saturday, you would have heard the beating of drums and folk music coming from the depths of Spitalfields market. If you delved further you would have seen plenty of smiling faces and women dancing in patterned kimonos. Free from the usual hipsters, Shoreditch was host to Okinawa Day, a festival to celebrate and raise awareness of Okinawan culture in the U.K. IMG_3581psOkinawa is the most southernwest islands of Japan, with its own distinctive dialect and cultural differences to mainland Japan. Okinawa is most regonised for its citizens skill in karate and unique folk music, which has become popular throughout Japan in recent years; combining original Okinawan folk sounds with American rock and jazz influences. The event states they are “keen to encourage more of a U.K audience to participate in future Okinawa related events and to create an Okinawan cultural hub in the U.K”. They seemed to be on target, as many of the core performers were a variety of ages and of all ethicities. As I arrived in the middle of the eisa dancing, members of the audience were encouraged to join in, shown the moves and children learnt to beat the drums in rhythm. The other performances I managed to catch was the karate demonstration by Okinawa Karate England / The Karate-do Shorinryu Kyudokan School – it was fantastic! They wowed the audience as they smashed wood with various body parts, proving why Okinawan people are known as the masters in karate! The sensei and his partner were great. I couldn’t help but laugh as he said to the audience “don’t worry she’s my wife” before thrusting the wood against her abdomen, which she of course shattered– now that is what you girl power! IMG_3815psFollowing on from this energetic performance, Hibiki Ichikawa played the shasimen, a three-stringed, banjo-like instrument accompanied by Hideike on guitar and Akari Mochida’s vocals. The trio performed traditional Okinawan folk music. I have never had the pleasure to hear them perform before but after a little research (and fun facts from friends) I found Hibiki and Akiari are quite the pair! Hibiki is the number one shasimen player in the UK and according to her website Akari is “the only Japanese blues and folk singer in the UK”. If you haven’t heard them before, they are worth checking out. As well as the main performance area there were stalls providing further information and introductions into Okinawan culture. For a £1 you could experience an authentic Okinawan tea serving ceremony. Although it may have been a little too hot for tea, Nice Ice, were on hand to cool you down afterwards serving Kagushi,  a Japanese shaved ice snack topped with syrup (charging £3 it was much cheaper than it is at conventions!). IMG_3935psFor those who had been won over by the culture of Okinawa islands, Japan Journeys and Inside Japan were there advertising tailor made holiday packages which included a visit to these beautful islands. Zoom magazine, one of my fave free mags, were handing out copies of the latest issue. The event embodied Okinawan culture, enjoyed by all and I am sure I will attend next year for a third time. Pictures from 2014 Okinawa Day: Pictures from 2013 Okinawa Day