Okinawa community shares tradition with service members
URASOE, OKINAWA, Japan -- Throughout the weekend, participants in brightly colored costumes dashed by crowds of people, as live music blasted from a stage and a feeling of wonder engulfed the area.
There was much to see and experience as Japanese and American citizens came together to enjoy the festivities at the 36th annual Urasoe Tedako Matsuri Festival July 26-28. Urasoe City Mayor Tetsuji Matsumoto invited Marines of Camp Kinser to attend the festival.
Col. Edmund J. Bowen and his wife, Deborah, also attended the event. Bowen is the Camp Kinser commander and commanding officer of Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
“We came to represent the Marines of Camp Kinser and learn more about the traditions of Okinawa,” said Bowen. “My wife and I feel honored to be invited by Matsumoto to spend this time with him and his wife.”
Tedako Matsuri, tedako meaning child of the sun and matsuri meaning festival, is a yearly summer event that takes place typically at the end of July. The festival pays homage to a powerful king of the ancient Ryukyu kingdom.
At the summer festival, attendees listened to live music, watched traditional dance and taiko performances, sumo wrestling matches and a fireworks display. There was also plenty of food to enjoy and games to play.
U.S. service members took advantage of the opportunity to interact with the local community and better understand their culture.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Cpl. Graham K. Ofori, a festival goer and a motor vehicle operator with 3rd Medical Battalion, 3rd MLG, III MEF. “You definitely don’t see this kind of stuff in America. I highly encourage everyone who hasn’t been to a local festival to go to them.”
Multiple local Japanese and American families were seen spending time with one another at the festival.
“This is one of the best times to get together with friends and family to have fun,” said Matsumoto. “It feels good to see U.S. service members enjoy themselves at the festival.”
It was clear from the positive feedback of the roaring crowds that attendees enjoyed their time at the festival as the sharing of local traditions helped strengthen the bond between the local community and service members.
“It’s always a good thing to share cultures because it brings people together,” said Matsumoto. “I’m happy Bowen and his wife were able to join me and my wife, and I look forward to seeing them again at future festivals.”