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Local diversions during the Okinawa fest

by Henry Wong

Staff Writer

A fun-filled week is upon Okinawa as the fourth annual Okinawa International Movie Festival descends on the prefecture’s main island. Like last year, the festival’s concept is centered around “Laugh & Peace,” in celebration of the sense of courage and joy for life that comedy and film can instill. The festival runs 24-31 March — but Okinawa is a relaxing destination in its own right, so if you’re visiting, why not take a look around?

While the festival’s main venue is the Okinawa Convention Center in the city of Ginowan, other venues are located in nearby Naha and Chatan. So when you finally burn out from watching movies, take the opportunity to venture out from the theater and see what Okinawa has to offer.

In Ginowan, you have access to a beautiful beach located behind the convention center that has picnic tables and chairs as well as rental barbecues (reservations required; visit www.tropicalbeach.jp for more info) for a great day out in the sun.

Also in the city is the Sakima Art Museum, which has a collection that deals with themes such as life, death and war — with the aim of avoiding a repeat of grave mistakes in human history. Its main exhibit is on the Battle of Okinawa.

Naha, meanwhile, is the capital of Okinawa and is home to Shuri Castle, a registered World Heritage Site. The castle was the former palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom, and is considered to be one of the finest gusuku (Okinawan castles) in all of the prefecture.

You can also see traditional arts and crafts such as bingata (Okinawan dyed cloth) at Shuri Ryusen, which has been in business for 36 years; or take a walk on Tsuboya Yachimun Street, which features about 20 ceramic workshops, stores and galleries.

Chatan is possibly the most popular area of the Okinawa Islands, and has two attractive beaches: Sunset Beach and Araha Park Beach. Sunset Beach, as its name suggests, is a perfect spot to catch the setting sun while paddling in calm waters. Araha Park Beach is sometimes known as Pirate Ship Park, because of a large ship-shaped play structure for kids — making it an ideal family location.

Another attraction in Chatan is the Sunabe Seawall, built to protect the city throughout the year as typhoons batter the island, and decorated with paintings and love notes. Also, when conditions permit, it is a perfect spot for scuba diving and surfing.

And then there’s the Okinawa International Film Festival itself.

The list of selected feature films being shown throughout the weeklong event are broken down into two categories, “Laugh” and “Peace,” with the general definition being that the films shown will either give you a good chuckle or a feeling of calm. Twenty-six films from all over the world will make their Japan premiers at the event, including darkly comic monster movie “Attack the Block” (U.K.), wedding comedy “Bridesmaids” (U.S.), “Love is not blind” (China), “Praybeyt Benjamin” (the Philippines) and Japan’s own “Tabakoi.”

The festival will also hold a few Special Screening events that will showcase documentaries, as well as older films that fit with the overall concept of the festival, such as a screening of world comedies featuring ghosts (including “Ghostbusters”), and an interesting look at live-action films based on anime and manga (such as “Yatterman”).

While the film festival deigns to effect in attendees a sense of peace and humor, it’s good to know that you can take a break from the big screen and find these qualities abundant in the local surroundings, too. After all, even if you’re making the trip to Okinawa just for the festival, it would be a shame to spend the whole time in the theater, right?

The Okinawa International Film Festival runs March 24-21. For more information, visit www.oimf.jp.