Hawaii Okinawan Festival
August 31, 2008 1:53 PM • by Hisurf Staff • Posted to Hawaii Culture | Hawaii Facts | Hawaii History | Comments (101) | Permalink
The end of summer in Hawaii is always marked with the annual Okinawan Festival at Kapiolani Park. This year, the festival is celebrating it's 26th year of bringing traditional Okinawan food, art and entertainment to the people of Hawaii.
The festival had it's start 26 years ago and debuted at McCoy Pavilion at Ala Moana Beach park. It soon outgrew that space and was moved to Thomas Square next to the Academy of Arts in 1985. Five years later, they outgrew this location as well. Today The Okinawan Festival is hosted at one of Hawaii's largest parks, Kapiolani Park. The goal of the festival is to share Okinawan culture with the public and to continue to share and educate about Okinawan traditions.
The festival always attracts large crowds and many come for the fantastic food which can only be found at this fair once a year. You can bet many locals look forward to this two day event. Over 50,000 people annually descend upon Kapiolani Park to take part in the festival!
Some of the food highlights are the Okidog, a flour tortilla wrapped around a hot dog, chili and specially seasoned kalua pork and lettuce. Andagi which is a deep fried Okinawan donut. It's golden cripsy on the outside and light and sweet on the inside. Delicious! The AndaDog is an Okinawan take on the corn dog, using the Andagi batter around a hot dog. It's like two great tastes in one! Yakisoba, a stir fried Okinawan style soba noodles with veggies, ginger and meat thrown in. And my favorite is Champuru, which features shoyu pork (pork marinated in soy sauce), stir-fried vegetables, meat and deep fried tofu. There are also many other dishes such as the local plate with chicken and teriyaki beef.
Pictured Above: Yakisoba plate.
Every year the Okinawan festival is host to 2 days worth of local entertainment featuring the many Okinawan clubs and associations members performing. Okinawan singers, dancers solo artists and bands perform here. Playing unique musical instruments such as the Taiko drums and sanshin, the three-stringed Okinawan instrument. This years guest performers from Okinawa were Tatsuya Shimabukuro, who was Radio Okinawa's 2008 Grand Prix Miuta Taisho winner and Mamouru Miyagi and Tatsuya Yasuda.
Aside from the food and entertainment, the Okinawan Festival features a lot of Okinawan culture as well. At the Cutural Tent, you can learn about Okinawan culture featuring several Okinawan artifacts: fabrics, glassware, ceramics etc. At the Heiwa Dori you can purchase specialty food items. The Ti Jukuishina-Mushimun Arts & Crafts gallery features fine original artwork and crafts from local Hawaii artists. My favorite is the Machiya-Gwa Country Store and the Hanagi Machiya Gwa Plants. The country store has great fresh produce from Okinawa such as sweet potatoes, eggplant and araimo. The plant store has a great selection of potted herbs and orchids that you can purchase and take home.
If you are traveling to Hawaii in mid to late August and plan on attending the Okinawan Festival, be sure to do as the locals do and plan ahead! Parking for the event is at Kapiolani Community College but it fills up quickly. Each year the parking lot gets more and more full due to the many events during the weekend in that location including the KCC Farmers Market. This year was especially painful finding parking. Be patient! Once you've got a parking spot, a fleet of shuttle buses runs all through out the event to shuttle you to and from the event. The ride to the park is "free" but in order to get back to your car, you must pay a $1 fee which is worth it. Parking is the hardest part of going to this event. Don't even bother trying to park at Kapiolani park. You will be competing for spaces with beach goers, park goers, soccer and baseball events and folks that use the park for exercise.
Proceeds from the Okinawan Festival support the Hawaii United Okinawan Association and allows them to continue it's mission of promoting and preserving the Okinawan culture here in Hawaii.