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Dragon boats, fireworks highlight Chatan festival

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2011-07-07

Dragon boat races are taking place in several locations across Okinawa this weekend, but none matches the challenges visitors to the 25th Seaport Chatan Carnival can face.

And donít forget the fireworks! Fireworks will cap festivities in Chatan on both Saturday and Sunday at 8:45 p.m. The popular event at Sunset Beach is expected to attract thousands of participants, as entry is free. The fun begins Saturday at 2 p.m. with a tug-of-war on the beach, followed by live music on Nirai stage.

The 8th Indies music contest takes place Saturday afternoon, prior to the official opening ceremonies. An Indies music contest continues at 6 p.m., along with live music. Sunday opens with the childrenís haarii and adult haarii, the dragon boat races, at 10 a.m.

Instead of being merely spectators, guests to Chatanís annual carnival can become part of the action themselves, as part of a raft team riding the waters in an obstacle race. Thirty teams, each with four members, will take to the waters at Chatan Parkís Sunset Beach on Saturday. Men and women are participating as mixed teams, too. Each team has the organizersí green light to design costumes and teams flags. Team members must be at least 12 years old.

Sundayís Seaport Chatan Carnival fun turns to the more traditional haarii races, but again, the participants are the guests. Each team must have 11 members, all must be over 12 years of age, and all must know how to swim. Same day registration Sunday is permissible at the Haarii tent on the carnival grounds.

Admission to the 25th annual Seaport Chatan Carnival is free. An Indies music contest takes place on Saturday, running from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Fireworks exhibitions will cap each of the carnivalís two days at 8:45 p.m. Organizers say bad weather will result in the races being canceled.

Chatanís not the only place for weekend festival fun. Check Japan Updateís Events column for a full listing of special events and festivals this weekend. Haarii races, for those new to Okinawa, date back to the Ryukyu Kingdomís dynasty days, when races were started at Tomigusuku castle and along the castleís riverfront. One of Tomigusuku castleís kings had visited Chin more than 600 years ago, bringing the race concept back to Okinawa.

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