Okinawa Tourism Information:RichHarvestFestivalinYaeyama

Rich Harvest Festival in Yaeyama

post : 2014.07.21 23:00

A rich harvest festival is held to give thanks to gods for a rich harvest and pray for an abundant crop for the next summer.

In Yaeyama Region, characteristic rich harvest festivals are held respectively in about 20 communities.  It is one of the largest events held by the whole community and participated by young and old, boys and girls, men and women,.

Commonly seen in most of the rich harvest festivals are hatagashira or ceremonial flags swinging against blue sky to the ebullient rallying cry, a brave “tsunanumin” fight between warriors performing a ritual fight with sword and sickles, a procession welcoming a miruku god, who is worshiped as a visiting god bringing happiness.  Rich harvest festivals end with a great tug of war participated by many people.

The festivals add more color to the brilliant summer of Yaeyama.

Some areas have a dragon boat race and a ritual of men carrying a big stone and other areas don’t have either of them and they celebrate their own rich harvest festival unique to their areas.  There is really a wide range of variations in rich harvest festivals in Yaeyama.

【Rich Harvest Festival of Kuroshima Island Held at Miyazato Beach】 

They hold a dragon boat race, which is unusual for a rich harvest festival.

With a background of the ocean, visitors can enjoy a miruku procession, performances of dance and bojutsu (a martial art of using a staff weapon), etc.   

【Rich Harvest Festival of Shikaaza, the largest scale in Yaeyama】 


This is a rich harvest festival of the downtown on Ishigaki Island, “four villages” (nowadays known as the “four town sections”), Arakawa, Ishigaki, Ohkawa, and Tonoshiro.

On the first day of the festival, people gather at the respected utaki (sacred site) of each village to dedicate performing arts such as bojutsu, shishimai (lion dance). 

On the second day, each village sends a large contingent of people to the utaki in Arakawa, where they perform tsunanumin, a great tug of war, etc. actively.

When it gets dark, finger flute dim in visitors’ ears and torchlight flickers, which brings additional excitement to the thrilling and tense mood of the festival.               

【Shiraho, Ishigaki Island】 

A rich harvest festival of Shiraho is the only festival that people say “comical” of all rich harvest festivals in Yaeyama.
The popular attraction is “Life of Rice,” a procession that describes a process of seeding to harvest of rice.
Among the procession participants, some men wear a woman’s clothes and some have their face painted white.  All of the community residents join the festival and create a joyous mood.
They hold miruku procession, hatagashira, a great tug of war, etc.

【Ohhama, Ishigaki Island】 

A variety of performing arts are dedicated as well as tsunanumin, a great tug of war, etc.  are held.

【Sonai, Yonaguni Island】 

On Yonaguni Island, every performance cannot be performed without purifying an area with taiko drum performance.
Performing arts are conducted in dedication to the gods as well as hatagashira and a circle dance called “dhunta,” which is special to Yonaguni.  In addition, a great tug of war is held every other year.
Most of the areas hold festivals in a boisterous fashion and attract many visitors.
Some areas never give information on their secret festivals to anyone but concerned personnel about the content and the date of the festivals. 

All the rich harvest festivals I introduced you with the above pictures are easy for tourists to access and watch.
I would highly recommend you see this traditional event which is deeply-rooted in daily lives of the island.

This year, Starting with the festival in Kabira on Ishigaki Island on July 10, we are in a rich harvest festival rush period now!
Please refer to the following schedule.

July 18th and 19th         Shiraho, Ishigaki Island
July 19th                          Sonai, Yonaguni Island
July 20th                          Kuroshima Island
July 20th                          Sakieda, Ishigaki Island
July 20th                          Hirakubo, Ishigaki Island
July 20th                          Ibaruma, Ishigaki Island
July 20th and 21st         Miyara, Ishigaki Island
July 21st and 22nd        Shikaaza, Ishigaki Island
July 21st and 22nd        Sonai, Hoshidate, Iriomote Island
July 25th and 26th          Hirae, Maezato, Ishigaki Island

* Please note that the above schedule was prepared as of early July and are subject to change.

Every year I get really excited about eye-grabbing gentlemen holding ceremonial flag poles.  
I am looking forward to how many rich harvest festivals I can see this year!

Okinawa CLIP Photo Writer   Masumi Sasamoto