Yomitan annual cultural event near Torii Station Dec. 2 - March 26

Photo courtesy of 10th Support Group Public Affairs
Photo courtesy of 10th Support Group Public Affairs

Yomitan annual cultural event near Torii Station Dec. 2 - March 26

by Brian Lamar
10th Support Group Public Affairs

As the sun dips into the horizon on 2 Dec. in Okinawa, a vibrant glow will take the sun’s place a little more than two miles North of Torii Station as it illuminates the annual Ryukyu Lantern Festival.

North of Torii Station in Yomitan Village, thousands of people will descend on the quant Muraski Mura during the Annual Lantern Lighting Ceremony. The ceremony will begin at 5:30 p.m.

The Muraski Mura is a reproduction of 14th Century Naha City. In those days, Okinawa was known as the Ryukyu Kingdom.

The Muraski Mura is a theme park designed to immerse visitors in demonstrations and displays of ancient traditions from more than 600 years ago. The Ryukyu Lantern Festival is one of Yomitan’s largest annual cultural events and will undergo its annual resurrection to pay homage to remnants of that former way of life.

During the 2 Dec. festival kickoff, spectators can expect to watch the lantern lighting ceremony, here traditional Ryukyuan music and more. Food vendors will be on-site as well.

“I would like to invite our American and expatriate population to come and learn about our Ryukyu heritage,” said Tomoharu Nakasone, the President of Yomitan FM and the Yomitan Chamber of Commerce. “I feel that the more people understand the history of a place, the more they can feel at home here. I hope this event serves to help us share bonds and develop deeper respect and friendship,” said Nakasone.

The history behind the festival is rooted in the economic partnership of the Ryukyu kingdom with the late 1300’s Chinese emperor. Those were the golden age of commerce between China and what is now Okinawa. The relationship was so steady and important to the region, the Chinese Emperor Hongwu sent a group of 36 families, which was the founding of one’s the world’s oldest Chinatowns.

Long before the inventions of combustible engines, electricity and other wonders of science, the moon’s cycles were vital to agriculture production and fishing trades. The new moon of the Chinese New Year was dark. Once the next full moon rose in the sky, it created the first opportunity each year for people to gather and congregate in night time outdoor activities. This was a time for celebration. Over the centuries, the lantern festivals were adopted to commemorate this tradition.

The Lantern Festival will continue after the opening ceremony nightly from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. after the 2 Dec. kickoff event until 26 March.

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