The Festival Commemorating the Origin of Harii Dragon Boat Racing
post : 2014.05.05 12:00
Speaking of Okinawa events in May and June, you can easily think of Harii (Festival for the god of the sea). A ritual called “The Festival Commemorating the Origin of Harii Dragon Boat Racing” was held in Tomigusuku Castle Site Park in Tomigusuku City in the southern Okinawa.
Tomigusuku Castle, which is said to be where harii dragon boat races started was built by Wanouso, the king of Nanzan in the 14th century.
When he studied in Nanjing, China in youth, he saw ryusen (dragon boat) racing and learned there was a ritual for rain to the god of the sea.
After he came back from China, he became a king for Tomigusuku Castle. As measures for drought, he floated haryusen on Lake Manko in Tomigusuku to conduct a rain-making ritual. Successfully he made rain happen. After that, it is said that the ritual became widespread throughout the Ryukyu archipelago and the locals called it harii.
The event had been stopped for a while after the battle of Okinawa. But it made a comeback and now noro (a sacred woman by heredity) and kaminchu (a shaman who specializes in religious practices in Okinawa) gather from Aza-Tomigusuku, Aza-Kakazu, Aza-Nesabu, and Aza-Madanbashi to conduct a ritual,“The Festival Commemorating the Origin of Harii Dragon Boat Racing.”
After prayers, sacred sake was distributed and members of the Naha Haryusen
Promotion Association (Naha City) sang harii song to offer to the god.
Actually “Harii song”for Naha Harii, which has been passed down since ancient times, goes that the king had offered prayers at the utaki in Tomigusuku Castle.
In “The Festival Commemorating the Origin of Harii Dragon Boat Racing,” executive director of the Naha Haryusen Promotion Association Tetsuo Tamaki dedicated the harii song.
And an Okinawa karate performance was dedicated to conduct the solemn ritual.
Lastly visitors to the festival were presented with sacred sake and amagashi (Sweet beans and wheat). A stick of shobu (sweet flag) leaves was added instead of a spoon. The leaves are said to have been used with amagashi as a set for a charm against bad luck.
Executive director of Tomigusuku Ryusen Association Hideyoshi Akamine said,
“Recently the racing part of harii catches eyes and young people has come not to understand the original meaning of harii. I hope young people will deepen the understanding of harii by clearly knowing its root through “The Festival Commemorating the Origin of Harii Dragon Boat Racing.”
Harii season is coming. Understanding the origin and meaning of harii before you watch it, and it will be a more interesting traditional event.
Event days: Saturday, May 3 to Monday, May 5
Time: 10:00 to 21:00
Location: Naha New Port Wharf (1 Minatomachi, Naha City)
Inquiries: (098) 862-1442 (Naha City Tourism Association)
Event day: Sunday, July 27
Time: 09:00 to 17:00
Location: Toyosaki Chura SUN Beach (5-1 Toyosaki, Tomigusuku City)
Inquiries: 090-8291-4909 (Tomigusuku Ryusen Association)
(098) 856-8766 (Tomigusuku City Tourism Association)
Okinawa CLIP Photo Writer KUWA