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2007 Okinawan Festival


Tomoko Uehara, lead female vocalist for Rinken Band

What better way to begin this year’s coverage of the 25th Annual Okinawan Festival, which took place from August 30 to September 2, 2007, than to talk about Saturday evening’s FREE concert performance by the Rinken Band. For those not familiar with this very popular group direct from the motherland, Rinken Band blends traditional Okinawan folk music with modern pop and rock influences, along with a dynamically percussive, mostly upbeat stage performance.

Their show started at 8pm on Saturday evening following the usual Bon Dance on an exclusively-built concert stage in the middle of Kapiolani Park, just outside the fence to the Waikiki Shell, with Diamond Head crater as a backdrop. The sound and lighting was superb, and it also included 2 large projection screens so folks could zoom in on each performer.

Speaking of performers, the 3 other male frontmen really got the crowd pumped by their energy!…

I can’t pinpoint the songs, as I don’t own any Rinken Band albums, but let’s just say the live show was something to behold, and those who were lucky enough to see it, including yours truly, probably sure were glad not to have missed it. It was just awesome in every way. The crowd, compiled of everyone from 2 to 80, kept a steady clap throughout the show, and during the final 5 or so songs, the younger folks got in front of the stage and danced the night away, getting the band even more pumped! We even learned how to say “Hanahou!” which means “One more time!” in Hawaiian in Okinawan. The term is “Ma-Ti-Che”. Not sure on the spelling, but it’s pronouced “Mah-Tee-Shay”. So next time you’re at an Okinawan event and you want an encore, say that!

Here’s the entire Rinken Band on stage…

You can’t see the drummer in this shot, but we were told this young fellah’ was only 10 years old, yet he could sure lay down the beat… he was rockin’!

During the final two encore songs, it began to drizzle, then drizzle a bit heavier, almost as if the band brought on a blessing to everyone there. It was that kind of chicken skin feeling you felt watching them perform. If you ever hear of this group coming to your neck of the woods, consider seeing them. Highly recommended. Sugoi Tanushitakatta… that was a lot of fun!

Wind back the clock to 1:30pm that same day, and here we are at the same stage…


Daimond Head crater for a backdrop. Nice!

The two open frames on the sides are where the projections screens will go later in the evening…

As you can see, it was clear blue skies, sunny and HOT!…

Not to mention crowded, yet controlled enough that I didn’t have to wait too long in line for anything…

All the Okinawan grocery foods could be found under one tent…

The keiki were kept busy with plenty of bouncers to choose along the Diamond Head end of the tent booths…

Other kids enjoyed the Andagi Dunk game just to cool off…

All of the performances scheduled throughout the 2 days at the park this year were held on that new concert stage, which relegated the Kapiolani Band Stage as a place for folks to get some shade and a place to sit..

Which brings us back to the food. All the usual suspects were in attendance, this time with me getting to try a a bowl of the ever-popular Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup!…


Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup, 28 scrips ($7)
Oh my, this is GOOD stuff, having an almost medicinal quality to it; like kicking chicken noodle soup up a notch. lol It has a strong ginger flavor that compliments the deep and “porky” pig’s feet broth. There was also generous cuts of fatty pig’s feet in it, while kept in balanced by the large cuts of daikon, mustard cabbage, kubo (konbu/seaweed) and celery.

Here they are preparing bowls, sans broth, for service…

So everything doesn’t get soggy, the broth isn’t added until you make an order. It’s served with a small plate of rice and minced fresh ginger as a condiment.

Anyhow, don’t let the name scare you, just try it… buggah stay ono!

My niece ordered the Yaki Soba plate…


Okinawan Yaki Soba, 28 scrips ($7)

The noodles were a bit soggy, but otherwise the combination of flavors and textures from the luncheon meat, ginger, carrots, green onion and seasoning was delicious (I sampled a bit).

Volunteers stationed at multiple woks cook up crowd-pleasing portions of Yaki Soba…

While volunteers at another tent prepare plain Okinawan Soba noodles, which will be used in a soup-style preparation…

Due to the scorching hot sun, one of the longer lines while I was there was at the shave ice tent…

Here’s the Okinawan Plate…


Okinawan Plate: Champuru (the cabbage and agedofu mixture), Shoyu Pork (Rafute), Rice and Andamisu (pork and miso condiment), 28 scrips ($7)

I also grabbed a few Andadogs to go (gotta’!)…


Okinawan Andadog, 5 scrips ($1.25) each

A note on the prices, just about everything went up this year, including most of the main entree items, which were $1 higher than last year.

From the looks of the crowd, which was estimated around 75,000 over the course of all three days, and the line-up of performances and demonstrations, including that fantastic Rinken Band concert, this year’s 25th Annual Okinawan Festival appeared to be the biggest ever and a total success. Here’s to generations ahead for this wonderful cultural event… Kanpai!

8 thoughts on “2007 Okinawan Festival

  • September 6, 2007 at 6:14 am
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    Oh yeah!! The Okinawan Festival. *wah, I wanna go…*

    Reply
  • September 7, 2007 at 6:52 pm
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    Pomai,

    Thanks for providing a link to the okinawan style pig feet soup recipe. Love that stuff, even with oxtail.

    Reply
  • September 18, 2007 at 10:22 am
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    Hey, it wasn’t just the young people dancing kacharsee in front of the stage, this person of a certain age was up there, too! Great post and pictures. It was an excellent festival this year, wasn’t it?

    Of course I hit the andadogs (they make a good breakfast!), and I also had the Okinawa plate, Okinawan sweet potato and Okinawa soba (while waiting for Rinken Band to start) and a chocolate haupia sherbet. Next year I may finally try the Oki-dog. Nice part about having the large stage (they had a similar set up in 2004, when BEGIN played) is that it frees up the benches around the bandstand so people can sit and eat in the shade.

    They seemed to have more stuff in the Heiwa-dori this year. I was really pleased to find miso natto (I’ve also seen it spelled “miso nantu”), mochi made with black sugar, turmeric, topped with sesame or peanut, and steamed in a (I think) banana leaf. It’s a favorite of my family, and you never see it outside Okinawa.

    Boy, those Hawaii Uchinanchus sure know how to put on a good festival!

    Reply
  • April 18, 2008 at 4:38 am
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    I was in the Air Force and stationed in Okinawa from 1995 to 1998. My wife and I went to a beer festival there and saw the Rinken Band. What an awesome performance and atmosphere. The longer they played, the more frenzied the crowd got (beer flying everywhere)!!! I ended the night by buying one of their CD’s, and still listen to it to this day.

    Reply
  • April 26, 2008 at 4:15 am
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    Howzit Michael, yeah, the performance gave me chicken skin, ‘kine, ladat. I hope they come back for a three-peat again this year!

    I’ve heard their CD, courtesy of my Uchinanchu friend, but just listening to Rinken Band doesn’t do as much for me as WATCHING them live.

    I also love Shoukichi Kina. I have their “Best Of” CD, which is great from beginning to end.

    Debbie-chan, you’re absolutely right, them Uchinanchus just blow it up! In fact, the Korean Festival organizers received help and direction from organizer of the Okinawan Festival for their recent festivals now being held also at Kapiolani Park.

    Reply
  • June 26, 2008 at 3:55 pm
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    I also saw Rinken Band at the Orion Beer Festival in Okinawa back in ’95! And was dancing in the crowd with all the Uchinanchus. The event was part of a big Eisa Matsuri in Kadena if I remember correctly. I wish Rinken Band would come here to LA…

    Reply
  • June 27, 2008 at 10:50 pm
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    Howzit Bobby,

    From what I hear, the Okinawan Festival is having a hard time finding voluntary man power to help out at the ever-growing festival here on Oahu, and will be cutting out some popular, yet hard-to-make food items like the Andadog. Bummer!

    No word yet who will be performing at this year’s 2008 festival, but I’ll try get da’ scoops. If Rinken Band returns, you bet I’ll let you all know!

    Reply
  • July 10, 2008 at 7:57 pm
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    What?! No andadogs? Nooooooooooo!!!!!! I love love love those!

    Well, I guess I won’t feel so bad now about making multiple trips to Hank’s Haute Dogs for their daily specials …

    Reply

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