The Okinawan Festival is an annual event on Oahu that celebrates the Okinawan culture.
General: Cost: Free
General: Has Gift Shop
General: Kid Activities
General: Movies / Plays / Theater
General: Performing Arts
General: Photo Opportunity
HistoryThe Okinawan Festival is an annual event that's been around for 30 years. Originally hosted in the McCoy Pavilion at Ala Moana Beach & State Recreation Area, it's grown into a huge event and now takes place at Kapiolani Park.
The festival was originally a cultural program started by Hui O Laulima which was an Okinawan women's group. They had the goal of sharing their culture through various exhibitions. Word of this got back to the Okinawan government and they assembled a troupe of Okinawan dance masters to perform at the festival. Eventually, what was a small event grew to a pretty major festival with over 50,000 visitors attending each year.
The parent organization to the festival is the Hawaii United Okinawa Association (HUOA). Proceeds from the festival support the HUOA's mission of preserving, promoting, and sharing the Okinawan culture.
What's There?The Okinawan Festival today is a combination of food, retail products, and performances. It's completely free to come to the festival and all performances are free as well. You'll only pay for food and whatever items you wish to buy.
The performances consist of various dances, drum shows, and other culturally significant shows. It's pretty interesting to watch and gives you a small glimpse into the culture. For visitors to Hawaii, it's a great way to get a feel for the Asian influence that exists here.
When you get hungry you'll have many food booths to choose from. Each offers a different type of Okinawan food. Been craving some Okinawan Pig's Feet Soup? They have you covered. Or maybe you want a more user friendly Champuru plate or some sushi? They have that too. Bringing the kids who aren't so adventurous? Not to worry, grab them an Andadog which is like an Okinawan corn dog. Then buy them an Andagi which is a sort of Okinawan doughnut. Oh, and of course you'll find shave ice here too so everyone can leave with their fill of sugar.
On the shopping side you'll find all kinds of interesting and not so interesting stuff. There is a lot of Asian produce to be had as well as flowers and plants (bonsai trees, orchids, etc). T-shirts are plentiful as are all kinds of souvenirs. At times it feels like a gift shop at the end of a Disney attraction but they're trying to make some money for their cause so it's not so bad.
Should You Go?Overall, it's an interesting event. Those who want to learn about Okinawan culture are sure to enjoy it and this is the group that will get the most out of the festival. Those who just want some tasty treats are also in the right place because there are quite a few options to sample.
For everyone else, eh, it's still interesting to check out but maybe not all that exciting. There are some minor activities for the kids so they'll probably enjoy it at least for a little while. If not, there is always the shave ice, hot dogs, and doughnuts I mentioned before to see them through the difficult times ahead.
Keep in mind that this event takes place on one weekend in September each year with the latest dates always being posted in our Event Calendar. This is often a hot time of year, with 2015 being unusual warm and humid, so be sure to stay hydrated and Protect Yourself From Sunburn & Skin Cancer.
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