okinawan culture



Eisa (Okinawan: エイサーEisaa) is a form of folk dance originating in Okinawa, Japan.

In Okinawa, the Obon festival runs for three days to honor the spirits of their ancestors. During the Obon season, each community performs Eisa with Sanshin (Okinawan guitar) to welcome ancestors to celebrate. There are two types of Eisa, "Traditional Eisa" and "Creative Eisa."

Traditional Eisa: Mainly in the center area of Okinawa Island, each village area has a traditional Eisa group. Each group passes down the choreography and their culture from generation to generation. Usually men will perform Taiko (Odaiko, Shime-daiko, Paranku), while women wear yukata and perform hand dances. Most groups have a Jikata (Sanshin player) for their Eisa songs.

Creative Eisa: In recent years, there are many creative Eisa groups in Okinawa, and also in Japan. Dynamic music and choreography catches the audience's attention. Each group has a unique costume and dances with pop, rock, and Okinawan music. Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko, known as the first creative Eisa group, introduced female taiko players in Okinawa.

Kacha-shi-: Kacha-shi- is a festival dance in Okinawa, usually performed at the end of a festival or a wedding reception. Okinawans express their joy with Kacha-shi- and senior citizens are often star performers. "Kacha-shi-" means "to stir" in the Okinawan dialect. In the Eisa songs "Toshin doi" and "Atchame guwa" people dance Kacha-shi-, moving their arms and legs in rhythm, finger whistling, smiling and having fun.

About Eisa museum

The purpose of the “Eisa Hall/Museum” is to preserve, pass down, and develop Okinawa’s traditional Eisa culture and its relation with Okinawa City. It is an educational facility where tourists who lay their eyes on Eisa for the first time, whether from domestic or abroad, can enjoy and learn its culture at its exhibition area full of books and videos, the photo gallery where tourists can experience wearing Eisa outfits and at the instrument exhibition booth where one can touch and also dance with the Eisa instruments.

This material has been copied with the copyright holders' permission.




Ryukyu (Okinawan) Traditional Arts

琉球(沖縄) 伝統工芸品の魅力

Vol.1 RYUKYU BINGATA 琉球びんがた(紅型)

Ryukyu Bingata is a resist-dyed textile which signified Okinawa, lasting for almost 400 years. The technique of resist-dye has reached Okinawa from China and Southeast Asia in the 14C to 15C, through the active international trades of Ryukyu Kingdom era. The technique developed within Okinawa, and the art of Bingata resist-dye, using stencil papers and bright color pigments, was established as Okinawa’s original.

During the Ryukyu Kingdom era, only those of the royal family or aristocratic class were allowed to wear Bingata, so after the kingdom’s fall, the technique gradually declined, and was severely affected by World War II. After the war, it was revived, and its beauty and technique is now protected and passed down as Okinawa’s identity.



Vol.2 RYUKYU KASURI 琉球絣(かすり)

Kasuri is a Japanese term for “ikat”, which is a weaving technique said to have originated in India. It is a tie-dye technique in which patterns are created by tying the yarn before the dye, and the remaining white parts construct the pattern when it is weaved. The technique reached Okinawa from 14C-15C, during the trading with Southeast Asia and China in Ryukyu Kingdome era, and became the roots of the kasuri textiles of mainland Japan such as Kurume Kasuri and Satsuma kasuri in the 18C-19C.

In other kasuri production ares in Japan, machines were introduced for the tying and weaving process, but in Okinawa, it is still produced in the traditional technique, making them the largest production area of hand-tied and hand-woven kasuri (ikat) textile in Japan. Also, the pattern design of Ryukyu Kasuri has always benn based on the royal design book called “miezu”, and they still are the basis of the designs today. “Miezu” designs are derived from the nature, animals and everyday tools of Okinawa, expressing its unique flavor of culture and history.



Vol.3 RYUKYU AKAGAWARA red roof tile 琉球赤瓦

Okinawa “aka-gawara” is a traditional roof tile made and used in Okinawa since the seventeenth century. This red unglazed roof tile is made of a raw material called “kucha”- a mudstone which is unique to Okinawa, and these roof tiles have became the identity of Okinawa’s traditional landscape.

During the Ryukyu Kingdom era, Okinawa “aka-gawara” red roof tiles were only allowed to be used for royal establishments, but in 1889 after the kingdom fell and became Okinawa Prefecture of Japan, the use of Okinawa red roof tiles were opened for the public. Nowadays, they are used widely for cultural heritages, public institutions and schools, hotels and resorts, business establishments and regular housing.

The makers of continuously challenging to preserve and pass down the traditional material and technique, while innovating new techniques and shapes to suit the modern needs, in order to protect the landscape and identity of Okinawa.




Produced by: Okinawa General Bureau, Cabinet Office / UNAGINO NEDOKO Co., Ltd. / Qualia Pictures

The “OKINAWA STRUCTURE” project was created to disseminate the beauty of Okinawan traditional arts to the world.

(C) 2017-2018 Okinawa General Bureau, Cabinet Office. This material has been copied with the copyright holders' permission.

企画、制作:内閣府沖縄総合事務局 経済産業部

制作会社:うなぎの寝床公式チャンネル クオリアピクチャーズ