This past Saturday April 11th, 2015, Zamami Village officially began its beach season for the year! The Beach Opening Ceremony took place on Ama Beach during high tide. Ama Beach’s beautiful turquoise waters that extend from the white coral sands to the uninhabited islands dotting the straight between Zamami and Aka provided a fitting backdrop for the event. Following the usual round of speeches by figures such as the mayor of Zamami, the islands’ children began an eisa traditional Okinawan dance-drumming performance.
The first few songs featured students from the village’s three elementary schools on Zamami, Aka, and Geruma islands. The big middle-school kids followed suit with a song of their own. The entire eisa routine came to a close with a combined performance. Nearly all of the village’s school children fielded the beach to put on their show, which ended with a call for spectators to join in the dancing festivities. After working up a sweat, a number of the youngest of the elementary school students took the first ceremonial dip to mark the beginning of the new beach year.
The main attraction was by far the bare-handed fish-catching competition. One would generally assume that such a wild-sounding event would be reserved for only the toughest fishermen out there, but reality proved to be the exact opposite. The first group to wade into the specifically constructed pool were the 5 and 6 year olds. Workers dumped a few containers of locally gathered fish into the pool.
Chaos ensued. Some wearing thick work gloves, others sporting floaties, the 5-6 year olds dove for fish half the size of their body. Parents waited along the side of the pool with fishing nets exhorting their youngest to do their best in catching dinner for the night. Some competitors responded well, snagging a fish in each hand before returning to the action. Others kind of just stood there looking at the fish. Others just cried. But all was fun and games, and any tears whether from feeling overwhelmed or exerting 100% effort dried quickly and turned to smiles as the little kids saw the bounty of their efforts.
With the little tikes tuckered out for the day, the next group of children a few years older jumped in the pool ready for action. Having participated before, the older children demonstrated their well-honed skills won from the blood, sweat, and tears of years past. The competition was a question of who could snag the biggest fish quickly rather than who could hold it together. The pool was an all-you-can-catch frenzy. The competitors rapidly filled the buckets, nets, and bags lining the perimeter, and the rush ended once all of the fish had been caught.
The exhausted participants and spectators alike headed for the tents at the beach entrance for a free lunch–locally-caught fried fish and onigiri balls of rice. The fish was juicy, the rice was filling, and the sweet bean and mochi desert left the palate with sweet satisfaction. Organizers brought the event to a close and completed cleanup before the looming rainclouds rolled in. Back home, dry, and toasty, more than one family enjoyed a fish feast for dinner.