The gong signaled the bows and prayers to the ancestors of the houses, as incense and sake was offered. The sanshin music started right after and the “I-ya sa-sa-” cry heralded the drums and dancers to begin eisaa, the traditional drumming, dances and music for the ancestors who arrived for their three day visit of lunar Obon.
The Young Okinawans of Hawaii, accompanied by uta sanshin from Ukwanshin, made tradition to be reality and alive, as they visited three areas in Honolulu to present eisaa as its been done in Okinawa for over 100 years. Eisaa consists of songs/prayers that refer to the season of obon and the ancestors. It is supposed to only be done within the 3 days of obon, and not meant for the
amusement or entertainment of those who are living. It connects the past to the present while passing of tradition, culture and identity. However, nowadays, there are groups that do similar drum dances to the more modern and at times non-Okinawan music, and for the purpose of entertainment and money. The Young Okinawans of Hawaii decided to follow the path of our ancestors and Okinawa, as they presented eisaa on the 3rd and last day of the lunar obon. “The experience at the first house was unbelievable. That feeling of love that just filled your heart when we started, made tears fill my eyes,” said Mana, who was the coordinator for this first eisaa in the streets on Uukui. “The experience was awesome. It touched everyone and made us realize what obon and eisaa is all about. The family members cried, we cried. It was tears of joy and thanksgiving. For me it was such happiness to finally express our Okinawan identity by living it and doing what is right.” said Jamie. “There are no words to explain it. You have to had experienced it.”
Reporters from Radio Okinawa, and a few visitors form Okinawa followed along and expressed their surprise that this was being done in Hawaii. They said it made them think about the essence of eisaa and obon, and that they shouldn’t take it lightly, or for granted. They were able to feel how special it was again, and don’t want to forget that feeling.
At the second area for the evening, the length of the street looked like a block party as many houses had families and friends gathered outside their homes to witness this event. The participating houses that did not have ancestral shrines in the house displayed pictures of relatives who had passed away, along with flowers, candles and offerings of food and sweets. There was so much excitement as the streets were closed off by the accompanying HPD officers, and the prayers by the YOH leaders began with the offerings.
The experience of having eisaa done on the day it was meant for, was infectious, as everyone seemed to look forward to next year, as they relaxed and talked at the end of the night. That feeling of love that overwhelmed the families and group at the first house only could have come from the ancestors who were expressing their happiness and thanksgiving for the sacrifice and effort made by these young pioneers. When you feel that, its like getting the warmest hug you could ever have, and that warmth will help to kindle the fire in the hearts so it can be passed on.
“Chihinu shicha uduti, Uyafwafuji nu tami. Shichigwachi nu ashibi, kukuru urisha!” Under the full moon we sing and dance. Its for our ancestors that we do this. The time of obon celebration is here, happiness fills our hearts.