Sea God Festival of Miyako Island
post : 2014.06.06 21:00
Miyako-jima Island is located about 300km southwest from Okinawa Main Island. The island was surrounded by the ocean, around which there are Ikema Island, Irabu Island, Kurima Island, etc.
As people on the island have lived together with the sea, they have been holding the traditional sea god festival very long for expressing their gratitude to the sea god and praying for a good catch of fish.
The elderly man of Miyako had this say; “As we subsist off the bounties of the sea, it is natural that we should display an attitude of thankfulness toward the sea god. We pray for a safe voyage and a bountiful harvest of fish from the sea for the coming year.
At the sea god festival, the local people pray for safe voyages and abundant catches through prayers by “kantsukasa (meaning “Shinto priest)” of each community and “ugan baarii (to pray sea god for fertility and fruitfulness).” After that, haarii races are held.
The date for the festival varies from area to area, but mostly it is held on May 4 (Yukkanuhi) in the lunar calendar. This year it fell on Sunday, June 1 in the solar calendar. It was very convenient for the general public to join and observe the festival.
Since this festival is for the locals, tourists cannot always participate in it. But still you might have a chance to join it depending on how close you become friends with the locals.
At Karimata Sea God Festival, a guest staying at minshuku (Japanese B & B) in the community joined the festival. Many tourists come to Miyako to be in time for this event every year. They looked so happy to have participated together with the local people.
Mr. Toshio Seki, who came to Miyako for this festival from Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture had this say; “I have visited Miyako Island since 13 years ago to join most of the events. I enjoy participating in the sea god festival because I can see the people I knew from here again. Racing together as one haarii team unites us as one people. We can promote bonding. When Tohoku earthquake took place on March 11, 2011, people in Karimata provided us with necessary resources. They have been a great help to us. I want to repay them for their kindness by coming here and joining the festival together.”
Of course, just watching the festival is lots of fun, too!
The sea god must be also delighted to see people are crowded around the water with a sound of glee.
Please come to see this community-based festival!
Official website of Miyako Islnd Tourism Association
Okinawa CLIP Photo Writer KUWA