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Friday, 9th May 2014
In Events In Japan,

Okinawa hosts traditional boat race

The southernmost Japanese prefecture of Okinawa held its annual dragon boat racing event earlier this week, amidst much excitement in local communities.

Originating in China, the celebration is used to pray for good fishing and safety at sea, with things kicking off in the Naha port last Saturday (May 3rd).

The event collides with Golden Week - a series of public holidays in Japan that occur in the same week - and the number of people flocking to observe races across the prefecture has been soaring to new heights in recent years.

Naha, the capital of Okinawa, is undoubtedly the best place to observe the event, as it features boats that are imported directly from China and therefore are decorated in traditional style with extravagant dragon heads and stunning carvings.

A drummer takes pride of place at the head of the boat, keeping the strokes of the rowers in sync.

The festival lasts three days and features a plethora of races that see everyone from school teams to members of the general public taking part.

However, it is on the final day that the main event occurs. Named Haarii, three teams in boats of green, black and yellow compete in an effort to secure the cash prize by winning a 400-metre lap race.

Even those who are perhaps less interested in sailing can find something to enjoy about this festival as the Naha incarnation also includes live concerts that attract famous Japanese artists and spectacular fireworks.

Okinawa's vast selection of islands is perhaps best reached from Naha airport. Known for their sub-tropical climate, they manage to retain a sense of Japanese tradition despite being far from the capital.

Written by Graham McPherson


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