Organized Events To Attend within Okinawa Prefecture
Specific dates may vary from year to year
Published: October 29, 2018. Updated 10-31-18

JANUARY

Oshogatsu - New Year
Although oshogatsu originally referred to the whole month of January, most people associate it with the first three days (sanga nichi) of the month. On these days, people go to shrines or temples, spend time with friends and relatives while drinking awamori and eating special New Year’s dishes. Throughout these days, the bustling Okinawan business community practically comes to a standstill. Throughout all of Japan schools, companies and shops close down, and trains, planes and highways are packed as millions make their way to their hometowns or other travel destinations.

Shurijo Castle Park New Year’s Celebration
Okinawa’s New Year celebrations kick off on January 1st and last until the 3rd at Shurijo Castle, one of the islands’ world heritage sites. The festival is uniquely Okinawan, taking its inspiration from the rituals and festivities of the Ryukyu empire. The celebrations include traditional chamber music and dance performances.
1 Chome-2 Shurikinjocho, Naha, Okinawa, Japan
Official website

Cherry Blossom Festival
Cherry blossoms or sakura are one of Japan’s most iconic symbols, and it is in Okinawa where the much anticipated season begins. Okinawan cherry blossoms are dark pink in colour unlike the pastel, almost white flowers of the mainland. The best time to experience the cherry blossoms in Okinawa is roughly mid-January to mid-February. Flower viewing, or hanami, can be done in all of Okinawa’s parks, but the most popular spots are Yaese Park, Yogi Park and around Nago Castle.
Motobu Festival
Nago Festival
Nakijin Festival

Okinawa International Orchid Show The Okinawa International Orchid Show is the largest orchid contest in Japan, usually held at the Ocean Expo Park around the same time as the blooming of the cherry blossoms. Dates are subject to change, however, so be sure to check the latest news for up to date info. The orchids on display, lovingly cultivated and endlessly beautiful are divine, plus the event also hosts a range of workshops and other activities like ikebana, Japanese-style flower arranging.
424 Ishikawa, Okinawa, Japan
Official website

Color Leaf Garden Fair
Enjoy the garden full of colorful foliage at the Tropical Dream Center.

FEBRUARY

Ryukyu Lantern Festival
Beginning in the first week of December and lasting until around mid-February, the Ryukyu Lantern Festival, hosted at the Murasaki Mura cultural theme park in Yomitan Village, is a spectacular event of light and traditional Okinawan culture. The park is adorned with thousands of Chinese lanterns to create a romantic atmosphere. Under the lights, a variety of performances take place and delicious Okinawan delicacies are available to purchase.
1020-1, Takashio, Okinawa, Japan
Official website (Japanese language only)

Setsubun - "Bean Throwing Festival"
Setsubun translates to "division of seasons" and occurs in early February - usually the 3rd - each year and heralds the passing of Winter into Spring. The celebration at Naminoue Shrine is said to be among the most festive and well-attended on Okinawa. Soy beans (sometimes peanuts) are scattered about inside and outside (mamemaki) with the belief that evil will be scared away and that good fortune shall be invited in. The custom of mamemaki came from ancient China. It was held to get rid of bad luck and purge “noxious odors” of the previous year. During the scattering of beans people chant:


This event came to Japan from China during the Nara period, and become an official court event during the Heian era. It became common among ordinary people in the Edo period. People believe that by throwing roasted soy beans at the ogre and scattering them in the house removes the negative vibes, as they pray for safety of the family and good health for the year. According to tradition, if you eat the same number of beans as your age (plus one for luck), you will enjoy a year of good health. Roasted soy beans can be purchased around the time of this celebration and are called fukumame - "lucky beans". Some people decorate the entryway of their home with hiragi iwashi (head of a sardine attached to a holly sprig) to scare off trouble-making spirits.

Yaese Cherry Blossom Festival
While Nago and Nakijin may be suffering the ebb of cherry blossoms February offers an extended time to enjoy the sight and scent of those pink beauties.
Yaese Festival
Official website

Chunichi Dragons spring camp
Chunichi Dragons Pro Baseball Team Spring Training Camp – at Chatan Sports Park Baseball Field, Mihama
Website info.

MARCH

Whale Watching Festival
From approximately December to April each year, the waters surrounding Okinawa become host to scores of humpback whales looking for mates. Undoubtedly, whale watching is a breathtaking experience and Okinawa is one of the best places in the world to try it out. The sea around Chibishi and the Kerama Islands are some of the best places to glimpse the animals and there are a number of operators available to take eager tourists out on boats. Take a look below for two of the best.
SEASIR Naha Whale Watching tour
Cerulean Blue Okinawa

Juri-uma Parade
January 20th of the Lunar calendar (mid-March) heralds one of Naha's main festival parades. In the Tsuji district of Naha, renowned as the "entertainment" capital of the island, the Juri-uma Festival brings on dancers and revelry into the wee hours.
Juri-Uma Festival

Higashi Village Azalea Festival
"Come to Okinawa and experience the spring season with Higashi Village's abundant nature and the blooming of 50,000 azaleas."
Official website of Higashi Vil.

Yaeyama Beach Opening Festival
The annual beach opening festival held on Kurojima near Ishigaki has the distinction of being the first such festival to take place every year in Japan. Travelers can sample the ever-popular Ishigaki beef, meet Miss Yaeyama and dance kachashi-syle to the delightfully raucous accompaniment of a sanshin band as residents and tourists alike celebrate on Miyazato beach. After a formal proclamation with religious and historical overtones is delivered with traditional Ryukyu flair, everyone races into the clear sub-tropical waters for a refreshing swim. While Kurojima is a half-hour boat ride from Ishigaki, the opportunity to participate in this fun-filled traditional event is well worth the journey.
Information

Sunset Beach and Araha Beach opening
Opening schedule of Okinawa's beaches

APRIL

Ryukyu Kaiensai Fireworks Festival
The earliest summer firework event in Japan, Ryukyu Kaiensai Fireworks Festival is held annually at Ginowan Seaside Park. One of the only places you’re likely to see a fireworks display on a beach, this one is not to be missed. Approximately 10,000 fireworks are launched into the black Okinawan sky soundtracked by some great music. The perfect way to start your summer in Japan.
4 Chome-2, Mashiki, Okinawa, Japan
Official website

Ie Island Lily Festival
Japan's earliest lily festival will be held at Lily Field Park on the northern coast of Ie Island. Pure white Easter lilies spreading through the fields and an additional 100 different lily varieties from around the world blooming, accompanied by stunning views of the surrounding blue sky and sea are awaiting you.
Official Iejima website.

MAY

Naha Haarii and Itoman Haarii
(Dates vary from year to year and these events may be held in May or early June.)
A Haarii Festival is a dragon boat race tied to age-old Okinawan seafaring customs. The two biggest and best of these are held at the Naha and Itoman seaports. Naha Haarii is usually held in early May, usually coinciding with Japan’s Golden Week national holiday. Itoman Haarii comes later in around late May to early June. Dates are subject to change, however, so check local listings ahead of time.
Naha Tourist Information
Itoman Tourist Navigator
Naha Harii 1990

Culture Beach Festival
Okinawa’s Culture Beach Festival is a celebration of summer, partying and enjoying the laid-back atmosphere of this tropical pocket of Japan. This May festival features DJs, live music and partying all day and night long. Held on Ikei island, it’s the best way to defrost after a winter of battling it out half nude in the snow.

Tanbo Matsuri (Rice Field Festival)
Also known by some as the "Mud Festival" this is a fun event at the Nature Miraikan Park in Kin Town. I attended in May of 2019 but have seen it being pulled off as late as July - I think that was in 2016. Kids from all around show up to literally play in the mud! It's a hoot. Games, contests, water buffalo cart rides, canoeing, art & crafts and lotsa muddy fun for everyone. One of the things that I enjoyed most was the Nagashi Somen contest. Check out 2019 Mud Festival!
Nature Mirai website

JUNE

Sabani Sailing Race
This annual race is held to continue the tradition of the sabani, a traditional Okinawan sailing boat made of wood and measuring from five to 10 meters in length. The course extends for about 36 kilometers from Furuzamami Beach on Zamami Island to Naha Port. Guided by conditions at sea, participants hoist sails when the wind is blowing and row their boats when the wind dies down.
Official website

Heiwa no Ishiji - Okinawa Memorial Day, June 23
On this memorial, 234,183 names are carved. Among them are the names of 147,110 Okinawans (including soldiers and civilians), 72,907 soldiers from mainland Japan, 14,005 American soldiers, 51 South Koreans, 82 North Koreans, and 28 Taiwanese. The names listed in stone are the victims of wars starting from the Manchurian Incident in 1931 to the end of the Pacific War in September of 1945 when Japan signed the documents of unconditional surrender. Also included in this list of names are the Okinawans who died on foreign soil such as Saipan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and other former Japanese colonies. Passengers on an evacuation ship which was sunk by a U.S. submarine on the way to mainland Japan from Okinawa are also listed. Others are those who died of disease and epidemics trying to escape from the war and foreigners who died on Okinawa soil.
Peace Memorial Park, 2019

Yohena Hydrangea Garden Flower Festival
Yohena Hydrangea Garden / 1312 Izumi, Motobu Town.
Yohena Hydrangrea Garden located in Izumi of Motobu-cho town in northern Okinawa. The garden had originally been a tangerine field before its owner, Mrs. Uto Yohena started planting hydrangeas and they grew covering the whole garden.
Yohena Hydrangea Garden

JULY

Tedako Festival
The Tedako Festival takes place in late July each year as a celebration of the three great kings of Uraso. The festival involves a number of different events, including eisa dance performances, taiko drumming, a carnival and fireworks. This is one of Okinawa’s biggest annual festivals, consistently attracting upwards of 100,000 visitors each year. For updates on events and times, check the official site below.
Urasoe City

Seaport Chatan Carnival
This is a big festival held on a beach in Chatan Town for two consecutive days. Attendees can enjoy many programs, including raft and dragon boat races, music performances, fireworks displays and more.
Seaport Chatan Carnival info.

Zoo Night at the Okinawa Zoo and Museum
Saturday nights July thru September
A popular summer event held at the Okinawa Zoo & Museum, this Zoo Night offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy animal encounters and observe their behavior after dark, which is totally different from what can be seen during daylight hours. The animal feeding experience is one of the fascinating highlights of the event.
Okinawa Zoo & Museum website

Ocean Expo Park Summer Festival
Every year a large number of people show up for this summer festival featuring the largest fireworks display in Okinawa. The festival will leave you spoiled for choice throughout the day; you can swim at Emerald Beach from 8:30 to 19:00 or have fun at popular kiddie beach attractions from 12:00 to 18:00. Another highlight of the festival will be the free Sunset Concert where you can enjoy performances by various music artists. To end the festival, 10,000 fireworks will light up the night sky.
Website

Nago Summer Festival open-air market and beer festival
Held in Nago City, the biggest municipality in northern Okinawa, this summer festival features over 60 stalls selling food, beverages and various non-food items, kids dance shows, choral performances, yukata (traditional Japanese kimono-like clothing worn in summer), live music, Kids’ Eisa Dance, local band concerts, street dance performances, and a drum festival and more fun events for everyone to enjoy. You can’t afford to miss the impressive fireworks display scheduled at the end of both evenings.
Website

Unna Festival
A popular annual festival in Onna Village features fun events including the popular “fish and fruit collecting game,” Eisa performances, live music and fireworks (on both Saturday and Sunday). In addition, the festival also offers the opportunity to experience a glass-bottom boat tour for a very reasonable price. In 2018 the festival featured a space and astronomy exhibition and a special science and technology corner where visitors could try on a spacesuit and have their picture taken, or enjoy a variety of workshops for kids. The exhibition and the special corner were managed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Onna Village.
Website

Chatan Nirai Haarii & Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival
Featuring exciting boat races and participated in by local surfing teams, marine-related businesses and a wide variety of food stalls run by the town’s popular cafes and restaurants, this festival offers a day full of fun for the whole family including an all-the-fish-you-can-grab competition for kids.
Okinawa Nightlife review

AUGUST

Obon
Obon, is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the departed (deceased) spirits of one's ancestors. The custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors' graves. It has existed in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori.
Obon

10,000 Eisa Dance Parade
Okinawa City Youth Festival
Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri
Dates vary from one year to the next; late August into early September
Eisa is a traditional Okinawan dance style performed to pay respects to ancestors. The dance stems from local folk songs and customs and is still performed along to the beat of taiko drums. The first 10,000 Eisa Dance Parade was held in 1995 on the first Sunday of August and continues to take place on the same day each year.
Okinawa Zento Eisa Matsuri (2018)
my YouTube of Koza Eisa in 1988
Eisa at Koza Stadium in 1988

Zoo Night at the Okinawa Zoo and Museum
Saturday nights July thru September
A popular summer event held at the Okinawa Zoo & Museum, this Zoo Night offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy animal encounters and observe their behavior after dark, which is totally different from what can be seen during daylight hours. The animal feeding experience is one of the fascinating highlights of the event.
Okinawa Zoo & Museum website

SEPTEMBER

Itoman Great Tug of War
This unique festival is held to pay tribute to the gods of good harvests and fishing. Events take place on the 15th of the lunar calendar, normally around late September to the beginning of October, throughout Okinawa but Itoman City’s is among the best. An 180 meter long rope is spread along one of the city’s main roads flanked by two teams of more than 10,000 locals and visitors. The teams battle it out for up to 30 minutes until a winning side becomes clear. Updates on the date and time for the event can be found on the official site below.
Itoman Large Tug of War

Zoo Night at the Okinawa Zoo and Museum
Saturday nights July thru September
A popular summer event held at the Okinawa Zoo & Museum, this Zoo Night offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy animal encounters and observe their behavior after dark, which is totally different from what can be seen during daylight hours. The animal feeding experience is one of the fascinating highlights of the event.
Okinawa Zoo & Museum website

Pantu Festival of Miyakojima
(September into October - dates vary as they are determined by the lunar calendar)
Tourists looking to experience a celebration unlike anything else in the Okinawan archipelago should venture to Miyakojima during the Pantu festival. But be prepared! Rather than sampling local food, listening to folk music and watching traditional performances, travelers will more likely find themselves being chased by mud-slinging demons dressed in leaves and wearing fearsome masks. Formally named Pantupunaha, this Okinawa festival originated in ancient times when locals believed that on a special day every year, three demons (called Pantu in the unique Miyakojima language) formed from sacred soil would emerge from a famous spring near the village of Shimajiri. The three demons, Uya (parent), Naka (middle) and Zur (child) would race through the town rubbing mud on all who could not get away fast enough. Perhaps ironically, getting rubbed by the sanctified mud drawn from that ancient spring is thought to be an omen of good fortune, which is why parents and grandparents often place their (understandably reluctant) children in the path of the fast-running volunteers chosen by local priestesses to play the role of the Pantu.
...enjoy this crazy naked festival.

OCTOBER

Naha Festival
The largest festival in Okinawa, Naha Festival is held annually in October on a public holiday coinciding with national health and sports day. As part of the festival, a variety of traditional and contemporary Okinawan performances are put on including live music, parades, taiko drumming and eisa dancing. It is also host to a tug of war event that is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the largest in the world.
Naha Giant Tug of War

Shuri Castle Festival
Another important festival at Shuri Castle held at the end of October each year. The traditional event is a celebration of Ryukyu culture with its highlight as a vibrant parade through the castle grounds. Entry into the castle is subject to admission fees.
1 Chome-2 Shurikinjocho, Naha, Okinawa, Japan
Official website

Yomitan Matsuri
One of my favorite festivals, Yomitan Village puts on a heck of a two-day event every Fall. Sometimes it's in early November.
One of the two big performances that takes place each year in the Yomitan Village Festival is an orchestra of over 300 Shanshin (3 stringed Okinawa instrument) musicians playing classical music accompanying dance performances. This Okinawan spectacle of the classic arts is remarkable to witness, there is no better time to soak up the ancient culture of the Okinawa people.
The other main event highlighted in the Yomitan Village Festival is “The Play of Taki.” This theatrical performance tells the story of the Yomitan Village pioneer who helped to open up trade between China and Okinawa, leading to the formation of the Ryukyu Kindom’s power base. The performance features a large “Shinkosen” trading ship used during trade mission to China on a massive stage.
Yomitan Matsuri in 2015 & 1987

Halloween Festa in Mihama
Every year the businesses in American Village get in the spirit and gussy up their places for Halloween fun. There's "Trick or Treat" and a costume contest. If you're not going to participate in the contest then at least bring your cameras!
chatan.or.jp website

NOVEMBER

Tour de Okinawa
Towards the end of the year, as the weather becomes cooler, Okinawa turns its attention to sports. One of the most popular events is the Tour de Okinawa, a long-distance cycling event modelled on the Tour de France. Taking place since 1986 in Nago City, hundreds of cyclists compete for the number one spot. This year the race will be held on November 7th and 8th.
Tour de Okinawa website

Koza Tug of War
With more of an International flare, the Koza Tug of War in Okinawa City is an annual favorite event when the U.S. military join forces to challenge the local folks of Koza (Okinawa City) in their famous tug-of-war.

C-1 Chatan Gourmet Battle
Restaurants in Chatan gather to offer their best dishes in a contest to determine which will be declared the Number-One restaurant. Restaurants offer their original curry dishes, kara-age, burgers, pork soba, taco rice, bowl dishes and ice cream. Who judges the event? YOU!
Japan Update story of the 2015 event

Okinawa International Carnival
As host to residents from more than 30 countries The Okinawa International Carnival spreads itself across Koza Gate Street (Gate 2 Street; Nat Rte 20) and Goya Intersection (Rte 20 and 330) in Okinawa City, as well as Chuo Park Avenue and Koza Music Town, with activities including a tug-of-war, children’s taiko performances, traditional Ryukyu arts, a parade and live performances.
Island Guide web review of 2018 carnival.

Kadena/Koza Special Olympics (KSO) Matsuri
The KSO consists of athletes from 29 schools and 28 special-needs workshops as well as volunteers from both the American and Japanese communities on the island. The event has grown from a mere few hundred athletes at its inception to nearly 1,000 participating in the 2017 competitions – exponentially increasing in size after almost two decades.
Kadena Special Olympics: Breaking down barriers (Starts & Stripes Nov 4, 2017)
Video of KSO Nov 15, 1987

The Ryukyu Dynasty Festival Shuri
One of Naha City’s 3 major festivals, the Ryukyu Dynasty Festival Shuri began in 1960, with the objective of revitalizing the castle town of Shuri as a birthplace of education and culture and aiming for greater ambition and wholesome education for youth.
Shurijo Castle Festival

Momoso Omono Mairi
Momoso Omono Mairi is a religious process which makes rounds to worship the sacred sites (utaki) within the Shurijo Castle and its vicinity. At each Utaki, the priestesses pray for the long life of the king and prosperity of his heirs, as well as for safe sea voyages, safety of the kingdom, and rich harvests. Experience the depth of Ryukyu Kingdom's world of religion and Shurijo Castle at the Momoso Omono Mairi, where the outer environment of men (omote) and the inner world of women (uchi) are brought together.
Shurijo Castle Park

DECEMBER

Naha Marathon
Held at the beginning of December, Naha Marathon is another major sporting event in Okinawa. The marathon began life in 1985 to celebrate the friendship between Naha and Honolulu, the Hawaiian capital. The marathon is open to all but runners must register in advance.
Naha Marathon website

Mihama Illumination
Running from late in November through the end of February American Village is brightly illuminated to attract visitors with an emphasis on foreign travelers. Hosted by the Mihama American Village Business Operator Association
The large Depot Island shopping mall tenants include numerous cafés, restaurants, dining bars, salons and shops featuring a wide variety of merchandise. The complex is bathed in light at night, enhancing the holiday mood. Since most shops are open from 11:00 to 23:00, it’s a perfect place for families, couples and friends to hang out. Go to American Village for more information.
Ryukyu Shimpo


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