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Field Party (Mō-ashibi)


Manzamo in Onna Village. Its name means a field “wide enough to let ten thousand people sit.”
Photo: KANO Tatsuhiko

Mō (毛) means “wild field” in the Okinawan language. It is a place where young people gather to sing and dance, in what some regions call ajimā-ashibi or yū-ashibi. Yū (夜, evening) refers to the time, while ajima (辻, crossing) refers to the place. Ajimā is the border area where the streets from various villages come together. As the gatherings take place on the border, young people can be free of the village rules. In other words, it is a chance for them to nurture romantic relationships with a sense of freedom. In fact, many people got married after meeting at mō-ashibi. The most important thing was that the youth could choose a partner from the many people and get to know them physically and mentally. And if the relationship didn’t work out, they could look for another. Relationships were formed in an open environment, which may have then had a good influence on married life. A similar activity, known as utagaki, can also be found in ancient Japan. The participants of a mō-ashibi are limited to the young people from a village and they never communicated with those from other villages. The marriage ceremony is also performed by people from the same village.