This past weekend was the 39th annual Naha Haarii Festival. Haarii is an Okinawan dragon boat race and festival that celebrates and prays for good catches for fisherman and marine safety. The Naha Haarii is the largest race and festival in Okinawa.
“Naha Haarii’s origins can be traced to China from where it came to Okinawa in the 14th century. A legend has it that a Ryukyuan prince who saw the “Haryu Ship” races in Nanjing, China, while studying there, had a race boat copy made after coming back to Okinawa. Villages in other parts of the island made their own boats and the races prospered as a national event of Ryukyu Kingdom. The custom was abolished when the Ryukyu Kingdom was taken over as a Japanese Prefecture in 1879. Although the race was temporarily revived the games finally stopped in 1928. The event was again permanently revived after World War II.
Each race is performed by three boats of 40 people. After starting at a standard-bearer’s signal, each boat competes a distance of 400 meters, in four 100-meter round trips. On the first day, the school games classified by sex among junior high school students will be held, and the Top 3 teams selected. On the last day, the teams, usually representing companies and occupational groups are carried out with groups formed by young men’s associations, industry associations and U.S. military and Japanese Self Defense Forces. There will also be a race for women teams.
A ceremony and a final race will be performed on the Naha Haarii’s last day. It begins with a ceremony, while the crew who wore the clothes of Haarii performs ancient rite and sing Haarii songs, and row their ships slowly and confidently around the port showing off for spectators before the race.”
There was actually a heat this year of Army, Navy, and Air Force wives. I think the Army won.
For some reason, this was one festival we hadn’t been to yet. We went on Sunday when the main races take place. We drove around for a bit trying to find parking, before we just gave up, drove to Kinser and took a cab down. The kids loved it. Little Missy had never ridden in a cab, so it was truly a treat. They were fascinated by the doors that opened by themselves.
Anyways, back on subject, the races are held at a port in Naha. Races were about every 15 minutes. We watched one whole race, before the kids were hot from all the surrounding bodies and bored. They wanted rides! My festival rule is one ride and one game each. They each rode their ride, they each played their game, I bought them food, and we walked around a while. We left when someone started to have a meltdown. Thankfully, it was just as easy to get a cab back.