Your Ultimate Guide to the 2019 Okinawan Festival in Honolulu
Spend your Labor Day weekend, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, stuffing your face while soaking in Okinawan culture.
Photo: Greg Yamamoto
It’s that time of the year again—time to stock up on andagi, andadog, okidog and more at the Okinawan Festival. The two-day festival will be held at the Hawai‘i Convention Center for the second time in the popular event’s 36-year run. Here’s your guide to what to expect, what to eat, where to park and more.
What It Is
Dubbed the state’s largest ethnic festival, the event features a variety of Okinawan food, live entertainment, family and kids’ activities, cultural booths and a bon dance. Started in 1982 by the Hawai‘i United Okinawa Association, the festival has moved locations several times, from McCoy Pavilion to Thomas Square and to its most recent home at Kapi‘olani Park, attracting 40,000 attendees.
Video: Aaron K. Yoshino
When and Where
Head to the convention center for this year’s festival from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 31, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 1. The popular bon dance will be held from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday. During the bon dance, only some food booths will remain open until 8 p.m. All other festival booths and rooms will close at 5 p.m. Doors open at 9 a.m. and the program starts at 9:30 a.m. on both days.
SEE ALSO: 2018 Okinawan Festival photo gallery
Where to Park
You can park at the convention center (entrance on Kalākaua Avenue) for $10. The structure opens at 7 a.m. and has no in-and-out or overnight privileges. Or you can take a shuttle bus for $3 per person roundtrip from McKinley High School (enter from Pensacola Street). Shuttles will run continuously from McKinley to the convention center from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. Shuttles will have storage compartments for baby strollers and large bags. The ride over won’t cost you anything, but to get back, remember to buy your $3 ticket at the festival information booth.
PHOTO: GREG YAMAMOTO
How Much It Costs
Admission to the first floor of the convention center is $2 per person. Children ages 12 and under and seniors 65 years and older can enter for free. Food, entertainment, the country store, children's games and more will be on the first floor. Remember to bring cash (cards won't be accepted for admission fees.)
There is no entrance fee for the third-floor rooms, which include educational and cultural exhibits and some shopping.
If you’d like to purchase food, crafts or anything else, you will need to buy scrips (two scrips for $1). Scrips are available for presale from any Okinawan association member club, or you can purchase them at the festival. Scrip booths will only accept cash.
What to Eat, Drink and Buy
Now this is what many of you have probably been waiting for, so let’s talk food. We’ve already mentioned that there will be tons (about 70,000 pieces) of andagi at the festival. Can you imagine that smell wafting through the convention center? The festival will also have other popular Okinawan dishes such as the champuru plate (luncheon meat, deep-fried tofu, shoyu pork, steamed Okinawan sweet potato and more), pig’s feet soup, Okinawan soba and maki sushi.
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Video: AARON K. YOSHINO
For the second year, the festival will host a tasting of Okinawa's unique alcohol, awamori. The rice liquor is not as well known as sake, but is a centuries-old tradition. Try several different types at the festival's special awamori tasting on Friday, Aug. 30 at the convention center.
Fill your reusable bags with fresh locally grown fruits, vegetables and other treats at the country store on the exhibit floor, as well as flowers, succulents and potted plants. On the third floor, the Heiwa Doori (Okinawa street market) will have specialty foods from Okinawa for sale, including kombu (dried kelp), bitter melon tea, andagi mix and kokuto (black sugar candy).
What to Watch
Once you get through the food lines (or while you’re waiting), enjoy performances at the main stage by local groups and entertainers from Okinawa, including karate, drumming and Okinawan dance. Three music groups will be flying in from Okinawa to perform at the event. The opening procession starts at 10:50 a.m. on Saturday, followed by a formal opening ceremony at 11:30 a.m.
PHOTO: Aaron K. Yoshino
No pets (except for service animals), hard-shell coolers or outside chairs are allowed in the convention center. There will be plenty of seating and rest areas available.
Bring your reusable water bottles to fill up at the water stations inside the convention center.
There will be free wireless internet in the common areas, as well as free cell phone charging stations.
For mothers and families bringing babies or young children, there will be a room set aside on the third floor to nurse or to tend to your kids in a quiet space.
Get to the festival early. Parking at the convention center tends to fill up quickly, and the food lines are lighter in the morning.
For more information, visit okinawanfestival.com.