Your Insider Guide to the 41st Okinawan Festival
Here’s what to eat, shop and do at one of the largest ethnic festivals in the state celebrating Okinawan culture.
Get ready to eat all the andagi your heart desires with the return of the annual Okinawan Festival. In its 41st year, the festival is one of the largest ethnic events in the State, celebrating different elements of Okinawan culture. Whether you attend every year or you’re ready to check it out for the first time, here is everything you need to know about what to do, where to park, what to eat and so much more.
Click to the info you want to explore:
What It Is
With the theme “Sharing Uchinanchu Aloha,” the family-friendly festival draws crowds each year with its Okinawan music, performing arts, cultural education, arts and crafts, historical exhibits and the largest indoor bon dance on the island. This year, special guest performers from Okinawa include the popular Aimamire group and Naha Izumizaki Hatagashira. On Saturday afternoon, ‘ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro will make a special appearance.
And you can’t skip the food—there will be several booths selling Okinawan cuisine and crowd favorites like andagi, andadogs and Okinawan soba. Proceeds from the Okinawan Festival support the Hawai‘i United Okinawa Association (HUOA) and its programs, including classes, genealogy resources, the Hawai‘i-Okinawa Student Exchange Program, the Children’s Cultural Day Camp, community service projects and much more.
SEE ALSO: O‘ahu Bon Dance Schedule 2023
When and Where
The 41st Okinawan Festival is on Saturday, Sept. 2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 3, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will take place again at the Hawai‘i Convention Center, 1801 Kalākaua Avenue. But for the first time, HUOA will be holding the entire event on a single floor at the Hawai‘i Convention Center instead of multiple floors. All booths, activities and exhibits will on the first floor in Exhibit Halls I, II and III.
Early admission tickets give you access to the festival from 9 a.m. on both days—this is a great way to beat the lines. Note that the bon dance will be held only on Saturday night from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Not all the vendors will be open during the dance—only the Okinawan soba, bento, andagi and andadog will be available.
Where to Park
Hawai‘i Convention Center
There are several options for parking. Enter the convention center’s parking structure from Kalakaua Ave. for $15 per entry. Overnight or in-and-out parking are not allowed. Limited drop-off and pick-up will be at the entrance on Atkinson Drive.
Ala Moana Shopping Center
This year, Ala Moana Shopping Center will be offering overflow parking, which is $12.62 for 10 hours. Scan the QR code in the parking lot and use the discount code “HCC22” for a 50% discount.
Civic Center Municipal Parking
If you want to save even more on parking, we got you—park for free at the Civic Center Municipal Parking, 346 Alapai St. (enter on Beretania) and use the shuttle service to the Hawai‘i Convention Center. Get on the shuttle at Alapai Transfer Station across the street from Civic Center Municipal Parking.
It’s $3 for a round trip and will be collected upon return. You can purchase shuttle tickets at the Information Booth in the Exhibit Hall. The shuttle runs on Saturday, Sept. 2, from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and on Sunday, Sept. 3, from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
How Much It Costs
Early admission tickets will be available for pre-sale online only, giving you access from 9 a.m. for both days. These tickets are limited, so grab them online. They are priced at $15 for adults and $10 for seniors 65 years and older. Two-day early admission is $25 for adults, $15 for seniors. Tickets are free for children 12 and under.
For general admission with entry from 10 a.m., a single day is $10 for adults, $5 for seniors; two-day tickets are $16 for adults and $8 for seniors. And, same with the early bird tickets, these are free for keiki 12 years and under.
What to Eat
There’s everything from andagi and andadogs to Okinawan soba and pig’s feet soup (only available until noon on Sunday). Over at the Heiwa Dori (named after the famous Heiwa Dori in Naha, Okinawa), you can buy imported specialty foods like konbu, soba, andagi mix, shïkwasa (Okinawan lemon-lime) juice, kokuto (black sugar candy) and more.
Here are all the details we have on food.
- Andagi: Okinawan deep-fried doughnut made fresh and served hot
- Andadog: Okinawan version of the corndog—a hot dog on a stick dipped in andagi batter and deep-fried
- Champuru Plate: Sliced vegetables, luncheon meat and deep-fried tofu are stir-fried champuru-style and served with white rice, shoyu pork and andamisu (a miso sauce cooked with finely chopped pork). Vegetarian champuru and steamed Okinawan sweet potato are also available.
- Okidog: A hot dog covered with chili and wrapped in a soft tortilla with shredded shoyu pork and lettuce. Chili frank plate and chili/rice bowl will be available.
- Pig’s Feet Soup: Pig’s feet cooked in soup stock and garnished with konbu (dried kelp), daikon (turnip), togan (squash) and mustard cabbage, served with hot rice
- Okinawa Soba: Okinawan-style soba noodles served in hot soup and garnished with kamaboko (fishcake), shoyu pork, green onions and red ginger
- Yakisoba: Okinawan-style soba noodles stir-fried with vegetables and luncheon meat and seasoned with a special chef’s sauce
- Yakitori: Chicken skewers grilled with teriyaki sauce
- Yakitori Bento: Two chicken skewers with rice and furikake
- Coffee: Pair your andagi with hot coffee
Note that only the andagi, andadogs, Okinawan soba and bento will be sold during the bon dance.
What to Do
Besides eating, there is a myriad of things to do. Bring your reusable shopping bags for locally grown vegetables, fruits and treats from local businesses (many of them Uchinanchu-owned) at the Country Store. Peruse through a wide selection of potted plants and flowers and view gorgeous bonsai trees and plants sculpted by the Hawai‘i Bonsai Association.
Over at the Keiki Korner, keiki can play at the robotics booth or visit the coloring station, and there will also be a play area for younger keiki with plenty of stroller parking. Swing by the health and wellness booths to get your blood pressure checked and join the bone marrow registry. If you’re daring enough, try a healthy fermented liquid vinegar called Mana-Su.
Find your ancestors at the Okinawa Genealogical Society of Hawai‘i booth, where a member will help you search through their immigrant database, which contains 19,000 records and covers Okinawan immigrant information from 1900 through 1925.
And over at the Bunkwa nu Shima room, view cultural displays and activities like the shimakutuba (Okinawan language), kimono dressing and professional picture taking for an additional fee.
Here is a tentative schedule so you can plan out your day.
Saturday, Sept. 2
10 a.m. Program opens
10:05 a.m. Ryukyu Sokyoku Koyo Kai Hawai‘i Shibu
10:25 a.m. Ryukyu Koten Ongaku Nomura-Ryu Ongaku Kyokai Hawai‘i Shibu
10:45 a.m. The Kilauea Okinawa Dance Club
11:05 a.m. Naha Izumizaki Hatagashira
11:25 a.m. Opening Procession Parade
11:45 a.m. Paranku Club of Hawai‘i
12:05 p.m. Formal Opening Ceremony
12:40 p.m. Hawai‘i Okinawa Creative Arts
1:00 p.m. Ryusei Honryu Ryuko Kai
1:20 p.m. Hawai‘i Okinawa Shorin-Ryu/Shinden-Ryu Karate Association
1:40 p.m. Hooge Ryu Hana Nuuzi No Kai Nakasone Dance Academy
2:15 p.m. Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Hawai‘i
2:40 p.m. Yaima Kai
- Tamagusuku Ryu Kansen Atae No Kai
- Yonamine Keiko
- Nishijo Joseph
- Tome Akiko Ryubu Dojo
3:45 p.m. Ryukyu Koten Afuso Ryu Ongaku Kenkyuu Choichi Kai Hawai‘i
4:30 p.m. Jake Shimabukuro
5:05 p.m. Kachashi – Ryukyu Koten Afuso Ryu Ongaku Kenkyuu Choichi Kai Hawai‘i
5:30 p.m. Bon Dance Begins
Sunday, Sept. 3
10:00 a.m. HUOA Ichigo Ichi E Class
10:25 a.m. Yuttai Kwattai
11:00 a.m. Aimamire Group
- Tamagusuku Ryu Senju Kai Frances Nakachi Ryubu Dojo
- Azama Honryu Seifu Ichisen Kai U.S.A. Mototake Kinuko Classical Okinawan
- Dance Academy (Mototake Kinuko Ryubu Kenkyusho)
12:35 p.m. Chinagu Eisa Hawai‘i
1:10 p.m. Shorin-Ryu Hawai‘i Seibukan
1:25 p.m. Jimpu Kai USA Kin Ryosho Ryukyu Geino Kenkyusho Hawai‘i Shibu
1:45 p.m. Shoshin Dance Company
- Nomura Ryu Dento Ongaku Kyokai Hawai‘i Shibu
- Azama Honryu Allison Yanagi Ryukyu Dance Studio
2:55 p.m. Kachashi – Ryukyu Koten Afuso Ryu Ongaku Kenkyuu Choichi Kai Hawai‘i
SEE ALSO: Our Guide: Honolulu Summer Festivals
- If you want to skip crowds and long lines for food, consider purchasing the early entry tickets online.
- Don’t bring hard-shell coolers or lawn chairs, as they won’t be allowed inside.
- Remember to bring your reusable water bottles—you can refill at water stations inside the convention center.
- Free Wi-Fi will be available in the common areas, as well as free cell phone charging stations.
- For nursing moms with babies, there are nursing pods located throughout the Convention Center.
- Wear comfortable shoes since you’ll be walking a lot and waiting in line, and there aren’t many places to sit.