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- Itoman Great Tug of War, One of Okinawa’s Three Great Tug of War Events (In 2018, the event in Itoman was held on September 24)
Traditional Nashiro Hari is Held at a Beautiful Natural Beach in Itoman City
post : 2019.07.29 23:00
On May 4 on the lunar calendar (which fell on June 6 on the solar calendar this year), there were numerous Hari dragon boat races throughout Okinawa, celebrating the god of the seas. There are fewer Hari races that are still held at natural beaches, particularly on Okinawa Island, but at the beautiful North Nashiro Beach (or Nashiro Nishi Hama) in Itoman City, the Hari festivities are held in the traditional setting of a natural beach. It is said that the Nashiro Hari can be traced back to 400 to 500 years ago.
Three teams race in the Nashiro Hari and they are separated by areas within Nashiro; the Maenti (red) from the south-side, Nakanti (purple) from the central area, and Kushinti (light blue) from the north-side.
The race is kicked off with the Ugan (prayers or offerings) Bari. Floating on the right hand side on the ocean is Aejina Island, which is considered to be a sacred island. The three teams gather on the seas in front of this small island, and they race with prayers for safety at sea and for abundant catch.
The length of the course is 830 meters, and at the flag offshore, the boats turn around and race to the finish. The finish is not when they reach the shore, but the team members must run up the beach to race for the sake bottle that hangs on a bamboo and placed in front of the MC. This year’s winner was Kushinti, marking their third consecutive win. Kushinti is also the origin of the Nashiro settlement.
Other races include the Seinen Bari, a race with the young men of the community, Gakusei (student) Bari with children, and there are also races by different age categories and women’s Hari as well. Each race is very exciting and fun to watch.
The rowers aren’t the only people that enjoy the excitement at the Hari. The enthusiastic cheering by the local mothers is contagious, as they cheer to the rhythm of their pounding drums and at times, they cheerfully dance the Kachashii.
The excitement in the later half of the event is the Munchu Hari. Munchu means lineage or clan, and as the name suggests, the participating teams are formed by groups of relative of the same clan. The members that were separated into various teams according to where they live all come together to form a team to represent their clans, so the colors of their uniforms are all mixed together in the Munchu Bari.
As you can see in the picture above, because the members are dressed in mixtures of red, purple and light blue, it’s hard to tell which team is winning. But as families go, they are united by a bond that’s not visible, and they put together their efforts to reach the goal.
The climax of the Hari is the Agai Bari. This is not a race to be the fastest, but is a custom that offers Hari songs as the boats circle in front of the Umiganashi (god) of Aejina Island. It is a solemn affair and very interesting to watch. Nashiro’s festival in honoring the gods of the seas doesn’t finish here. The people go around to the head households within the community to report the outcome of the Hari races and the event wraps up with prayers for a year of peace for the people of the community.
Place: Kita (North) Nashiro Beach (960 Nashiro, Itoman City, Okinawa)
Date/Time: May 4 on the Lunar Calendar, from 8 AM
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Hiroshi Kuwamura