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Okinawa Japan photography group featuring unique pictures of Okinawa
Taking place for 3 days in mid August dead ancestors are welcomed back to the land of the living. Ishigaki families visit and clean up their large family tombs known as Kikkoubaka bringing presents of rice wine, Okinawa awamori, and food.
As evening approaches households start burning bundles of grass at the entrances to their property. The smoke from the fires helps to guide the spirits of the ancestors to the homes of loved ones.
As dark approaches the rhythmic beating of drums can be heard throughout towns. Meanwhile groups of about 30 performers representing spirits prepare to visit homes in a unique type celebration. Traditionally these 30 people will dawn cotton Kimono’s called Yukata, white scarf’s over their faces, dark sunglasses, and straw hats. These disguises make it almost impossible to tell weather the person is a man or a woman.
Leading the group are a Grandmother and Grandfather Spirit wearing comical masks of an old man and old woman. The group will spend the evening visiting houses that have requested them, entering singing and dancing.
After everyone is in the house the group of “spirits” sit along the edge of the wall, usually in the traditional Okinawa style sitting room leaving the middle open for dance and song performances. Different dances take place during their time in the house some slow and graceful, others with high energy and comic in nature.
The real unique and interesting part of this experience is the part when the spirits ask the family of the house questions between dances in a high pitch voices. The questions are all asked in Ishigaki or Yaeyama dialect and are usually comical in nature. Everyone that can understand laughs and has a good time.
Soon the group prepares to leave and move on to the next house for the evening. This type of festival is an example of this area of Okinawa Japan’s unique and interesting culture that has managed to survive and thrive in a modern fast changing world.