Nishime Sumo and Eisa


Nishime Eisa Entrance

This year's event is scheduled for August 23, 2015

Nishime is one of nearly 35 aza or neighborhoods on Kume Island. This yearly event takes place in mid-August. As at the Gima Sumo competition, the purpose of the events are trifold: the traditional offering of personal effort during the traditional harvest, a way to raise money for the community, and an entertaining social event that binds the community closer together.

Nishime SumoNishime Sumo beings at 3:00 with Elementary sumo competitions, followed by junior high and high school competitons. The adult sumo competition begins around 6:00 p.m. or following the conclusion of the other events.

Directly after the winning competitors recieve their certificates and prizes, local community members put on the Nishime Eisa performance. Most Eisa performances are set for stages or parades and often have their performers arranged in a block formation. At this unique celebration, the performers enter in one long line and then circle the sumo ring. To accompany the drummers there were five sanshin (sanshin are the Okinawan version of the Japanese shamisen, a cross between lute and guitar that is usually covered with snake-skin) players who sang and played Okinawan tunes which are a usual feature of Eisa.

It is unknown when Eisa began on Kumejima, however, it has been a staple of island life since at least the Meiji Era, though it was temporarily halted during World War II. The Eisa performance today lasts about fifty minutes with 12 songs.

Nishime Songs*

More on Nishime Eisa

Nishime EisaThere is more than just the circular Eisa that makes Nishime unique. Half of the performers wear the traditional Eisa garb of Chinese influenced dress with headwear formed from a long stretch of fabric. Unlike many Eisa costumes of bright colors, the Nishime drummers wear mostly black with white trim. The drummers use mainly small drums with a pair of large drums leading and following. The Eisa moves are complex, but overall require a great deal of stamina.

Nishime EisaPerhaps the most unique aspect of Nishime is the other half. While one half of the performers are drummers, the other half are paired couples in bright traditional Okinawan clothing. These performers do not have drums but instead dance to the music and drums along the sumo circle. These tend to be the older or married couples, while the drummers are the younger, though not all are single. The men tend to use closed fists in their dance, while the women have more graceful open palms.

Nishime EisaFinally, accompanying the Eisa performers are Okinawan clowns in the guise of the elderly. They arrive with offerings of awamori which they doll out to the audience. The clowns dance, fan the Eisa performers and interact with the audience. They help encourage everyone to participate and provide more of an offering to the celebration. The clowns wear wigs, and body paint for fake hair and wrinkles. It is a tough job that they perform well.

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