Under the slogan "Let the whole world move to the Uchina beat," Okinawa will host the prefecture's largest international event, the sixth Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival from Thursday, Oct. 27, to Sunday, Oct. 30. (Uchina means Okinawa in the island's language, while Uchinanchu means an Okinawan person). Festivities will include a mass sanshin music recital, traditional eisa dances and a karate drill that, organizers hope, will be large enough to win a mention in Guinness World Records.
The festival is held every five years and Okinawa prefectural officials expect this one to attract around 350,000 participants, more than 7,000 of whom will come from overseas. For the majority of these international visitors, the festival will represent a homecoming of sorts or a return to roots. Most are members of one of Japan's largest diasporas, the mass exodus from Okinawa that, for more than a century, has profoundly shaped the personal identities and the communities of those who departed and those who stayed behind.
The current population of Okinawa Prefecture is 1.4 million, with an estimated 300,000 Okinawans living in mainland Japan. According to the latest prefectural data, a further 415,000 Okinawa-ken keijin (first and following generations of Okinawan migrants) live overseas, the majority in Brazil, the United States and Peru.