Kumejima Kumiodori

If you keep up with my Facebook page’s daily photos you might have seen the post below a few weeks ago from the Ancient Tales of Yomitan Village production that the Kume Island Board of Education brought to Kume Island to entertain and inform.

That production started off a lot of discussions with the Tao Factory writers and producers and in just a short time they began working on a new production based on Kume Island’s history and culture.


IMG_3569_1A Kumiodori is a type of Okinawan musical. Unlike other stage productions with elaborate scenery or props, the kumiodori utilizes song and dance to set the tone and scene. Most community centers and performance halls in Okinawa, even modern ones, lack the elaborate stage equipment of theaters in the US. Lighting and the dance and clothes of the performers can set the scene quite effectively. For instance, to set the stage of a large battle, the dancers wear large black coveralls and dance in a way that mimics the chaos of a large battle.

The kumiodori also usually has live music, with a band performing in addition to song and sound effects. Often traditional dance and music is integrated into even the most modern story. In Kume Island’s case, the popular Tunnaha Daiko (eisa) group performed as part of the story.


The Performance

IMG_3656_1The Kume Island kumiodori’s cast is comprised of junior high and high school students who have been working for the past six months to learn new lines, dances, and original music. the name of the kumiodori is Kasashiwakachara (笠末若茶良) in the Okinawan Dialect. I don’t have a very good English translation but based on the individual characters and the show I’ll roughly translate it as “The Young Lord’s Sacrifice.”

The main story revolves around three brothers and the castles they built on Kumejima in the ancient past. While based on historic facts, the dramatization adds new story elements and fiction to fill gaps and make the event more interesting. Set around 500 years ago, the story includes battles, love, and loss. As you might expect due to the limited sets, the costuming is quite elaborate and features Kume Island’s Tsumugi (pongee silk).

Upcoming Performances

If you’re in Okinawa, you’ll have your first opportunity to see this great cast at work on March 28th at the Naha City Civic Center’s Concert Hall (那覇市民会館中ホール). Cost is 2,000 yen for adults and 1,000 yen for students. For inquiries call 098-985-2287.