Dragon Boat bell rings in Okinawa summer

Itoman Haarii, which is is always held on June 4th of the Lunar Calendar at Itoman Fishing Port, attracts large crowds from all over the prefecture.

Haarii, or Dragon Boat Races, is an annual Okinawan tradition that is said to have been brought to the islands from China about 600 years ago during the Ryukyu Kingdom era.

As a part of the race, teams at Itoman Haarii have to turn their boat upside down, then right it up agains and bail the water out, before finishing the race.

Local Okinawan fishermen traditionally hold the Haarii races at their fishing ports in all parts of the island to pray for abundant catches and safe seafaring. Okinawan people say that the Haarii bell that sounds the pace for the paddlers on a haarii boat also rings in the beginning of the summer season.

Haarii races are traditionally held on May 4 of the lunar calendar, which this year lands on Jun. 19, but in modern times races are held usually on the nearest weekend. As more haarii races are organized for the entertainment of the public and to highlight local festivals,

Haarii is not only a boat race but involves many rituals. Prior to the races, participating crews perform a holy ceremony for the gods of the sea early in the morning of the day.

races are held on other dates, too.

The largest Haarii race on Okinawa is Naha Haarii that is held during the Golden Week holidays in the beginning of May as a part of a three-day festival in Aja Port in Naha. Naha Haarii is the only race that features the large haryusen (dragon boats) that are run by crews up to 40 people. Smaller Okinawan sabani-boats with a crew of about 10 are used in other haarii races.

Itoman Haarii that is the second largest event in the annual “Haarii Calendar” is held always on the May 4th of the Lunar Calendar, Jun. 19th this year. Manza Haarii off the beach of the ANA Intercontinental Manza Beach Resort in Seragaki, Onna Village, is held on Jul. 5th, and is the only race, in which participants compete for the Winner’s Flag of the Okinawa Prefetural Government.

Major Okinawa haarii races

• June 19 Itoman Haarii

10 a.m. at Itoman Fishing Port, 603-1 Itoman Itoman City

• June 19 Oujima Haarii

9 a.m. at Oujima Kaigan

• June 19 Minatogawa Haarii

7:30 a.m. at Minatogawa Fishing Port, Yaese

• June 21 Kadena Haarii

10 a.m. at Kadena Fishing Port, 566-7 Mizugama, Kadena Town

• June 21 Chatan Nirai Haarii

8 a.m. at Chatan Fishing Port, 61 Mihama, Chatan Town

• July 5 Manza Haarii

9 a.m. at ANA Intercontinental Manza Beach Resort Hotel, 2260 Seragaki, Onna Village

Itoman Haarii takes place this Friday, Jun. 19th.

23:47 27 Oct , 2016