I went to Shurijo Castle Park to see its New Year’s Celebration on January 2.

In the afternoon, traditional Ryukyuan dances were held at Keizuza and Yomotsuza (Shicha-nu-Una).  


Ryukyu Performing Arts Cerebration

[Classical Ryukyuan dance or Ryukyuan court dance refers to the dances developed during the 18th to mid 19th century.  During this period of the Ryukyu Kingdom, these dances were performed to welcome and entertain the ambassadors from China.  Classical Ryukyuan dance can be divided into five categories Rojin-odori (“old persons’ dance”), Wakashu-odori (“young persons’ dance”), Onna-odori (women’s dance).  Nisei-odori (men’s dance), and Uchikumi-odori (dramatic dance performances).  

Meanwhile, after the Han (domain) system of the Ryukyu was abolished and the prefecture of Okinawa was established, members of the Samurai class gifted in the talents of dance held performances for the general public.  This was the start of Okinawa’s theatrical entertainment, and from this came original dance called Zo-odori, which include popular dances such as Kanayo and Tanchamae.  The word “Fork performing art” is a general term for annual rituals, prayers and gratitude concerning harvest that have been inherited for generations over the islands. ] (The source: the pamphlet “Shurijo Castle Park New Year’s Celebration 2010”)  


The 1st Stage: 12:30 ~


1. Kagiyadefu (Rojin-odori)

This dance is to perform as the opening at celebrations such as wedding.  It is said that Kagiyadefu was performed for celebrating King Sho Gen (1556-1572)’s succession to the throne.  It was only danced in front of Kings and national guests.  Kagiyadefu was a dance to pray for longevity, peace and security of the kingdom, good harvests.  

ryukyu dance, new years ceremony

2. Inimazun (Onna-odori)

This dance is for a preliminary celebration to pray for the productiveness of grain.  Holding an ear of rice which represents rich harvest, a dancer expresses a great joy throughout the performance.  

ryukyu music, okinawa music, traditional songs

3. Menuhama (Nisei-odori)

Menuhama is the most representative of Hand Gesture Dance genre.  This three-part dance emphasizes great power and toughness of youth.  Introducing karate gestures makes this dance a really powerful one. 

okinawa traditional musical

okinawa play, okinawa dance, okinawa traditional culture


4. Higasa (Modern Choreographies)

Holding a parasol, a young lady in love goes to see her love.  This dance shows freshness and voluptuous grace of a maiden.  This modern choreography depicts gentleness of ladies by gentle, beautiful movements.  

shinsyunnoutage, okinawa new years ceremony

5. Kanayoamakawa (Zo-odori or Uchikumi-odori)

Kanayoamakawa is the most representative of Zo-odori genre in Ryukyu Dance.  This dance expresses love of young boy and girl who play around the spring by freewheeling movements.  Kanayoamakawa is a very healthy and cheerful popular dance.    

new years ceremony in okinawa


Each stage consists of 5 or 6 performances.  From January 1st to 3rd, there are four stages: 12:30~, 13:40~, 14:50~, 16:00~.  The first stage and the third one have the same performances and the second and the fourth have the same ones.  


Ryukyu dances performed at New Year’s Celebration are even more artistic.  Please do not miss this opportunity next year!

Go back to:

Shurijo Castle Park New Year’s 2010 (Part I)

Shurijo Castle Park New Year's 2010(Part II)




Kumiko Teruya is a profesional Japanese / English Tour Guide in Okinawa Japan 

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