Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tedako Festival

I told y'all I'd be experiencing more culture! Jess, Amber, and I (missing Kendall, Boo!) ventured off to the Tedako Festival this weekend, without the husbands because they were party poopers. Their loss.
The Tedako Festival is a three day festival that happens annually in Okinawa. Tedako means "children of the sun" and the festival pays respects to the king of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom. The festival boasts all that an American festival would (think FAIR!): music, entertainment, dance, and of course, food. It also includes some things that three little blonde girls would NOT typically get at an American festival.
For example, for the first hour or so upon entering the festival we spotted maybe a handful of Americans. Yes, I realize this is a Japanese festival, but we definitely stuck out like sore thumbs. Many of the people were dressed in their cute little outfits (see the photo of the sweet little friends we made), Blonde is a strange thing in Japan, so we had several stares, waves, and people saying "hello" in their best English. A group of boys approached us with what could only be described as the English they had learned at school: "Hello. I am hungry. I have money. Beautiful! Goodbye!". HOW sweet, of course we always talk to people we meet, and are probably more fascinated with them- they are all so cute and nice. SOOO nice! I really have never met nicer people than I have in Japan!
Anyway, enough jabbering, here some pictures.

This was our view upon entering the festival. Who can spot the KFC vendor?! Very strange considering I'm pretty sure there is no Kentucky in Japan, but it works :) There was also traditional food, like the food I tried, and including Yakisoba, fried rice, sushi, chicken on a stick, and other strictly Japanese food that I couldn't decribe if I wanted to. There were also more recognizeable options: corn on the cob, hot dog on a stick, snow cones, cotton candy, etc.
 Eisa Dancers! Here is a cool little exerpt I found to describe what Eisa is all about:
"Simply put, it is a Buddhist prayer dance to send off the ancestors to the afterlife, which is performed on the last day of the lunar Obon festival (July 15th on the lunar calendar). Okinawa's Obon follows a three day period from July 13th to the 15th according to the lunar calendar. In Okinawa where ancestor worship is strong, Obon is a very important event carried out on a grand scale and with much enthusiasm."
Read more about the roles that each performer plays here.
 How sweet are these little cuties?! We noticed them staring and smiling and saying "kawaii", which is cute. We waved to them and they started frantically waving back and grinning. Then, of course, we took their picture with the trademark peace sign right before they performed. I believe these are Yukatas, which I think are casual traditional dress. Definitely not as formal as a Kimono. They were also wearing Obi's, which are the wide belts with bows in the back.
 More Eisa Dancers toting an iconic Japanese Dragon (tatsu). The Dragon also carries spiritual significance.
 Jess had a "snowcone". A man shaved this ice into a bowl and drizzled cherry syrup on top.. Yum! And so refreshing in the hot, hot heat!
 I wanted to try something 'traditional'...which to me meant walking up to one of the food vendors, sweating my hiney off from waiting so long next to the grills and cooking, and ordering whatever I saw first that looked completely foreign.
 The closest things to me were these little ball things, and chicken on a stick. How traditional could chicken on a stick be? There was also some mess of veggies with fish on top formed into a sort of cake...like a fishy, veggie hashbrown with sauce squirted on top. Scary. Clearly, this is what awaited me. They looked doughy, had some sort of brownish sauce drizzled on top (I tasted sesame, soy, ginger, and something worchestershire-y), and I think it was thyme or parsley sprinkled on top.
 I could not have eaten another of those little balls of death if I tried. It was very dough-y, "savory", and the kicker--it had octopus inside of it. I should have known since fish is very common in Japanese dishes. I love calamari, but this was chucks of rubbery, chewy, not so cooked octopus. I struggled to eat and swallow the whole ball, not wanting to be rude and spit it out (although I'm not sure how polite my face was while eating it). I tried.
This little group of boys was sitting across from us, so Jess tried to ask what was in it. Confirming my thoughts they said "very little English...Oct....o.....pus!". We gave the rest of the balls to them so they wouldn't go to waste. They thanked us and proceeded to gobble those suckers up like Thanksgiving Dinner.

Here are a couple of videos of the cool Eisa dancers :)
video

video

We also visited Shurijo Castle, which I will blog about later on.
Until then, Sayounara!

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