Powerful Dance and Exciting Drum Beat: Eisa
The rhythmic drums echoing through the summer night, the chanting of “eisa, eisa,” the lively sound of finger whistling, and energetic young people dancing without regard for the sweat pouring down are all signs of traditional Okinawan summer.
Eisa is a dance performed on the last day of the Bon Festival (July 15 on the lunar calendar) for the repose of ancestors in Buddhist culture.
While beating on the drums, dancers move around the town dancing. Each region has a different dance routine and costume.
Based on traditional eisa, choreography and music are freely arranged for this new style.
There are such new styles of eisa group inside and outside of Okinawa, as well as overseas, helping eisa to spread as one of the Okinawan performing arts.
Eisa (drum dance) in the pre-war period
Before the war, eisa was a traditional dance performed on ukui (the last day of the Bon festival where people send off the spirits of loved ones to heaven).
Young people would gather in a building at the center of a community, in a community center, or in a residents’ association center, and dance to eisa music while parading around the neighborhood.
Young eisa dancers were called eisa shinka (eisa buddies), and they were offered the rice cakes, confectionery, and meat dishes that had been made especially for the festival to display in the family shrine.