Every year on Labor Day weekend the largest culture festival of Hawaii takes place at Kapi’olani Park. This festival offers a chance to experience a different culture through their incredible food, dance and music. This festival is the Okinawan Festival.

Now over 30 years old, the festival was first started in 1971 by the Hui O Laulima which is an Okinawan women’s group in Hawaii. First known as the “Cultural Jubilee” it was later named the Okinawan Festival when it had expanded to include more cultural groups.

Each year it attracts over 50,000 people and has moved to Waikiki’s largest park, Kapi’olani Park which is the sixth venue since inception.

One of the most attended events during the festival is the bon dance. The bon dance is a Japanese Buddhist custom, which recognizes and remembers ones ancestors. The style of dance and music that accompanies the dancing varies from region to region in Japan. The bon dance is help on the Saturday night of the festival and is not to be missed.

In addition to the dancing, food is a huge part of the festival and it is plentiful. A list of food booths available can be found here. But part of the fun is going and exploring and seeing what looks good. Be sure and try out the chocolate covered andagi, an Okinawan syle donut. Okinawan style soba noodles are also extremely popular at the fair and are to not be missed. So much amazing stuff to try it’s best to come with a group of so you can tastes it all. It’s reported that food does sometimes run out on Sunday, particularly the more popular items so come early so you don’t miss out.

In addtion to food, there is a cultural tent available to explore. A very popular stop in the cultral tent is the kimono and paranku dressing and photos. The kimono is a traditional Japanese outfit and the paranku is the outfit worn by Japanese drummers. professional photographers are on hand to take the photos of you while wearing these outfits and there is a charge for the photos.

The festival is a great place to take some amazing photos as the dress and outfits you’ll see are incredibly beautiful and unique. The festival even hold a photo contest each year that offers the opportunity to win up to $150 dollars. To learn more download the entry rules here.

Kids are encouraged to attend the festival. They’ll love the chance to try out new foods and experience first hand the culture of Okinawa. Additionally, kid specific actvities are available.

Parking can be a challenge because of the popularity of the festival. It’s a good idea to come early and find a spot. There is a shuttle bus from Kapi’olani Community College that is only $2 for a round trip ride.

The Okinawan Festival is not to be missed, once you go, you’re bound to make it a yearly tradition.

More information about the festival can be found on their website: http://www.okinawanfestival.com/

And be sure to like their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/okinawanfestival/