Okinawan Festival: What to eat, buy and do

Okinawan Festival: What to eat, buy and do

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Photos courtesy Cliff Kimura, Okinawan Festival

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. And the stomach.

The popular Okinawan Festival is back this year after its last-minute cancellation in 2016 ahead of Hurricane Lester. As a longtime volunteer and attendee, I can tell you that the festival was sorely missed and I can’t wait to celebrate all things Uchinanchu this weekend. Here’s a look at the highlights that I’m most looking forward to.

The food

Pig’s feet soup
Now in its 35th year, the Okinawan Festival delivers consistency and deliciousness. The andagi may be voted Most Popular, but I go for the food that’s Most Likely to Soothe Your Soul. For those of you who have never tried it, the pig’s feet soup is not just for foot fetishists. The meat is oh-so-tender and the broth wonderfully rich. Throw in a few veggies and I’ll slurp this whole bowl down even on a sweltering day.


Oki dog
My other must-get. Hot dog? Good. Shoyu pork? Good. Zippy’s chili? The piece de resistance. All these goodies wrapped up in a flour tortilla. I cannot resist and I cannot share.

oki dog

Sweet potato mochi crisps
You heard me. Sweet potato. Butter mochi. Crisps. Has there ever been such a magical combination of words?

The Festival is introducing something new this year that’s guaranteed to be a hot seller. These treats were created by the KCC Culinary Innovation Center and are exclusive to the Okinawan Festival, meaning you won’t be able to get these bad boys after this weekend. And 100 percent of the sales will go towards the Hawaii United Okinawa Association Campaign Fund as well as the KCC Culinary Innovation Center’s UH Foundation, so you can feel even better about indulging. Find these only at the Capital Campaign tent.


And the Andagi Express
Other new food items this year include a vegetarian champuru and steamed Okinawan sweet potato.

Oh, and before I forget, tired of waiting in andagi lines longer than Best Buy on Black Friday? The Andagi Express will be making its rounds around the park so be sure to flag them down to get your andagi.

andagi cart

Not the food

Of course, there’s more to see and experience than just food. The Okinawan Festival always has great entertainment and products as well. This year’s headline performer is none other than the hugely popular Rimi Natsukawa. Hailed as the Norah Jones of Asia, she will be performing on Sunday, Sept. 3rd. Plop down in front of the stage with a bowl of pig’s feet soup and feel all of your stress melt away.

I also enjoy the plant tent. Having just moved into a new place myself, I’m constantly on the lookout for fresh flowers and plants to pretty up the condo.


Find your roots

And finally, there’s the Find Your Okinawan Roots table where they will help you to learn about your ancestors and even track down possible relatives in Hawaii and Okinawa. I’ve seen this table every year but have never tried — you know, not being Okinawan and all — but maybe I’ll try this year just to see if there is a small chance I could be related to Mr. Miyagi. That would be cool.


35th Okinawan Festival
Kapiolani Park
Saturday, Sept. 2 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., bon dance 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 3 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: Free
Parking: Free at Kapiolani Community College with a $3 shuttle to the festival