Chondara are clowns that encourage the performers, and entertain the crowds during Okinawa’s summer eisa dance performances. They can be young or old, but you see very few women chondara. Usually they wear a straw conical hat and a short striped basa kimono. The makeup is nearly always white with designs drawn on to the face. The designs on the face vary between the chondara, but more surprisingly, unlike western “whiteface” clowns, a chondara doesn’t always stick with the same face. Below we can see the same chondara at Ryukyu Mura with four different faces. Send in the clowns!
I went down to Naha on Sunday to check out the 10,000 person eisa dance. Surprisingly, the festival begins around 1pm, which unsurprisingly means it was oppressively hot and humid. Parents and leaders of the various groups were trying to keep all the little kids cool with wet towels and drinks but most were looking pretty weary. I pottered around for an hour, met up with some friends, then slunk off to find somewhere cool. This particular Englishman (and his mad dog) have learned to stay out of the midday sun.