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Dragon Boats racing Sunday at Manza Haarii

Date Posted: 2012-07-07

Manza Beach in Onna Village on Okinawa’s northwest coast is the setting Sunday for the 29th Manza Haarii Festival, the running of the dragon boats pitting Okinawans against mainland Japanese.

The festival, officially the 29th Prefectural Governor’s Cup Contest ‘Manza Haari Festival’, runs Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the ANA InterContinental Manza Beach Resort. More than 4,000 spectators are expected to be rooting for the dozens of competing teams. A total of 88 teams comprised of 968 participants from Okinawa, mainland Japan and foreign countries were on the water last year. It’s no simply feat to compete; the entry fee alone for an 11-person team is ¥30,800 ($400).

A ladies race will pit seven teams against one another, challenge races with 64 teams paddling along the emerald blue waters take up most of the morning Sunday, followed by the Champion’s Race with seven teams. The seven entries come from Okinawa municipalities.

The excitement happens at the ANA Intercontinental Manza Beach Resort, a community-oriented hotel that prides itself on promoting Okinawan traditional culture. The resort’s been in the dragon boat competitions since 1984, when 27 teams challenged each other. Competition built after the second year’s races, with Okinawa Prefecture stepping in to set up the Prefectural Governor’s Cup Contest.

Although all dragon boat races are exciting to watch, the challenge races are especially exciting because it often pits friends against friends, or communities against neighboring communities. In the challenge races, the hotel establishes quotas for teams from guests at the hotel.

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