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Dragon boat races add excitement to Golden Week

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2012-05-04

The excitement-filled Naha Haarii kicks off a three-day run today at Shinko Wharf, winding up Saturday with a series of dragon boat races.

The three-day festival, the 38th Naha Haarii, invokes the dragon boat races to pay homage to farmers seeking good harvests and fishermen wanting safety on the waters. Traditional dragon boat races originated in China centuries ago as a part of prayers for good harvests and safety.

Yesterday was Constitution Day in honor of the post war constitution passed in 1947. Greenery Day tomorrow is another holiday, followed by Children’s Day on Saturday. The holidays bring down the curtain on Golden Week, which officially ends Sunday. Five national holidays form the Golden Week, which is one of Japan and Okinawa’s largest holiday periods of the year during which tens of thousands take vacations and travel.

Opening ceremonies are this morning, just before a sumo wrestling tournament, school bands, comedians and music launch the Naha Haarii in downtown Naha City today. The first dragon boat races of the season are today, too, with junior high school and P.T.A. teams vying against one another.

The traditional Okinawan dragon boat race custom originated centuries ago in China, as a part of prayers for safety and good harvests. Today, dragon boat races are held throughout Okinawa…in small villages as well as the more organized festivities of the big cities. Naha Haarii is the largest of the festivals, with a dozen boats with hand carved heads and dragon faces, and tails in the form of dragon tails. The main dragon boat races are Saturday, with the challenges beginning in the morning. The finals take place starting at 4:30 p.m. following the traditional prayers to the ocean’s god for safety. Races are by category, with children, community groups or companies, and the American military taking on the Japanese Self Defense Forces.

No festival is complete without fireworks, and Naha Haarii organizers have fantastic fireworks shows planned for tonight, tomorrow night and Saturday night at 8:40 p.m.,. The three-day schedule has something for everyone.

Today
09:50 – Opening ceremonies at the main gate to Shinko Wharf
10:30 – Okinawa-style sumo wrestling tournament
10:30 – Shuri Junior High School Band
10:30 – Junior high school and PTA dragon boat races all day
11:00 -- Eisa
12:00 – Comedy show on main stage
13:00 – Okinawa Grand Prix
14:00 – Hanayakara Show
15:00 – Zukan Live
16:00 – Twin-X Liv
17:00 – Crescendoll Dance Studio Hip Hop
19:00 – FLiP Live
19:40 – Isamu Shimoji Live
20:40 – Fireworks

Friday
10:00 – Comedy at main stage
10:00 – Coast Guard ship public show
11:00 – Rescue Exhibition
11:45 – Bench Press
12:00 – Pro Wrestling
14:00 – Aerobics Contest
16:30 – Ryukyu Idol
17:00 – Traffic Safety School
18:00 – Aimoco Live
19:00 – Jujumo Live
19:00 – Manami Live
19:40 – Diamantes Live
20:40 -- Fireworks

Saturday
10:15 – Haarii dragon boat races
12:00 – Comedy
13:00 – Yuutan Time
13:30 – Ricky x The Michel
14:30 – Iora Live
15:00 – Okinawan Song Show at main stage
15:40 – Natchy Live
16:40 – Dragon boat race finals
17:30 – Kiyama Shoten Live
18:00 – Okinawa Minyo (folk songs)
19:00 – Civilian Skunk Live
19:40 – D-51 Live
20:40 – Fireworks finale

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