Monday, October 13, 2008

Tug of War!

Each October 10, about 20 thousand locals come together in Naha City to celebrate a centuries old tradition called "Tug of War". Two sides representing East and West compete against each other in pulling a huge rope made out of rice stalks. The winning side is rewarded with good luck and prosperity that year. 

The tug of war festivities begin with a lone musician playing a flute that looks like a broom.

Next, there is a parade of the 10 prefectures in Naha. Each prefectural team walks as a group while balancing a heavy tall pole decorated with their insignia at the top. Surrounding team members hover nearby with long poles ready to intervene if the pole bearer begins to drop it!  

In addition to the district poles, children from the district march along and bang gongs and drums.  When the parade comes to a stop, individual children step to the front and begin doing karate routines.  It was a load of fun to watch.  It was one of the first times that we have really felt like we were experiencing a piece of Okinawan tradition.

After watching the different districts we decided to take a quick break and try a local restaurant.  We had a tasty meal of taco rice, pork and rice, soba and seaweed.  Once we had filled our stomachs we continued to walk along enjoying the area.
We finally made our way back to Route 58 to wait for the Tug of War.  By the time we got there all of the district poles were on either side of the two ropes.  We quickly started making our way down one side until we saw an area that only had a few people waiting to man the ropes.  By the time we were allowed to walk to the rope and grab a strain to pull, we were surrounded by both Okinawans and Americans, young and old, and even  dog or two.  Everyone there was looking forward to the tug of war.   Before the tug of war could begin the two ropes had to be joined.  The ropes were brought together and joined by using a huge wooden peg.  When the call to begin sounded everyone began to pull with all of their might.  In about 5 minutes our side was called the winner.  Once the winner was named it became a made dash to cut a piece off the rope to take as a souvenir.  Some people walked off with a good 10 feet of rope!  We are not sure what to do with it, but we did grab a piece for ourselves.  

In all, we had a wonderful day down in Naha.  We want to go down there again and see what else we can find.


Anonymous said...

We are new to the island and want to go to the tug of war this weekend. Did you go on your own? Would you mind giving us some advice on where to park and when the parade starts? I love reading your blog! I've been reading it since before we got here!

Mary R said...

You're going to love it! It's really far as getting there, last year we paid for transportation through Omega travel on Foster. It cost about $22/person, and I think since we were also new to the area, it was worth it to us. Some people also just drive to Kinser and then take a taxi to the area. This year, I think we might chance it and drive ourselves and just look for parking, but that's because we're not freaked out about getting lost downtown and don't mind driving in circles if we need to. Apparently, the roads get closed at some point too, so you have to get there early and be okay with leaving later than you might want to...we usually park at the underground garage in front of Ryubo Shopping Center, which costs about 400 yen per hour. Reserve the tour soon if you want to go that route! Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thanks! ITT through Kadena is already booked, maybe we will try Omega. Otherwise we will brave the parking on our own!


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