Ryukyu Lantern Festival
Hundreds of handmade paper lanterns strung throughout a replica 14th-century Okinawan village? Wouldn't miss it for the world!
The first weekend we arrived in Okinawa, our sponsor family took us to wander through the Ryukyu Lantern Festival. The two-month celebration is held at Murasaki Mura, a recreation of a medieval Ryukyan town. Before Okinawa became part of Japan in 1879, it was the Ryukyu kingdom, sort of the Venice of the East that acted as a middle man trader among China, Korea, the Philippines and Japan.
Since it was our first visit, just the sight of the replica village was impressive - stone walls curved in the unique Ryukyan way, arched entrances, hidden wells and traditional wooden homes. The glow of the lanterns made it that more mesmerising and romantic.
The evening was chilly and the kids were restive. I'm so used to keeping an eye on them that I forgot we are in relatively safe Japan - we can let them wander. So it was a fantastic opportunity to focus on some nighttime photography and practice with my new Fuji mirrorless camera. (Unfortunately I accidentally had it on the jpeg file setting the whole time - I normally shoot in RAW to allow for more editing latitude. Oops!)
The central grounds are magically transformed to a scene from the hit Japanese anime movie, "Spirited Away." Intricate and huge lanterns replicate a Ryukyan king and dancers. Notice the strong Chinese influence in clothing and accessories - for centuries Okinawa was more closely tied to China than Japan culturally and economically.
Hundreds of Chinese lanterns in all colours are strung all over the village. Specialty, handmade lanterns in the shape of animals, cartoon characters, the Hungry Caterpillar, even a sake bottle, are displayed in the yearly competition.
There was so much to wander and see, a surprise around every corner.
It wouldn't quite be an Okinawan attraction without a goat pen. And tonight, unforgettably - goats bathed in a soft blue light.