Thanks to our friend Masashi in Okinawa, he sent us a blog that captured the “JuriNma” celebration observance which falls usually around the second week of the lunar new year. This tradition supposedly began in the Meiji era, as thanksgiving to the community, ancestors, and gods, for watching over, and providing for them in the past year. This was especially meant for the surrounding communities of the “juri” (Okinawan geisha) houses, as also a sign of gratitude for putting up with them being in the community. Although “Juri” were looked down on and lived the life of one of the less honored in the community, they lived a very strict and most humble life, even bowing to the youngest child in the community when they travelled outside of the confines of the house. Most came from a very poor background which lead to their parents selling them to the “Juri” houses, so that they would be guaranteed food, clothing, and education. Sadly however, once sold and committed to the “Juri” houses, these girls/women only returned upon their death. After WWII, many of the “juri” had no place to return to as the “Hana no Shima” or “Juri” district was destroyed. Many returned to their home village, only to be ostracized by the community, and they had to suffer to work meager jobs to survive. A great movie to look up and which shows the life of a “juri” is “Yushiya Chiru”. Its an old film done in black and white and Okinawan actors speaking in the native language.
The “JuriNma matsuri” was one of Naha’s main attractions, but this has steeply declined in recent years. It is very heartwarming to see that there are still some who are preserving and celebrating this tradition, but it is also sad to see that it has become so small in comparison to full streets of people watching group after group dance down the streets of Matsuyama, and Kokusai Dori.