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50 Teams Ready for Battle in Naha Dragon Boat Races

By: Marie W. Conway

Date Posted: 2000-05-05

Every year, Naha holds one of the most exciting and memorable events in Okinawa. Even though Naha is a modern industrialized city, the concrete and steel are swept away during the dragon boat races. The Naha Dragon Boat Races date back to the 13th Century in China and are based on a tale of the imperial servant, Kutsugen. Although Kutsugen was a devoted servant of the Chinese Emperor, there was also a bond and mutual friendship between the two. Because of this strong relationship, many vassals grew jealous and began spreading the rumor that Kutsugen had betrayed the Emperor. Kutsugen was horrified by this false accusation and committed suicide by throwing himself into a river. The Emperor was saddened by this tragedy, so he decided to hold a dragon boat race in his friendıs memory. As the Ryukuan Kingdom actively engaged in trade with China, their histories are intertwined. After hearing this story, the King of the Ryukyu Islands, was very moved and wanted to hold dragon boat races on the island that would become known as Okinawa. To this day the dragon boat races are an extension of the Chinese influence on Okinawaıs heritage.

Golden Week, the first week in May, is full of festivities and celebrations. This Friday, May 5th, 50 teams will be competing for the best time in the boat races. Eight of the teams are filled with competitors from the American military. The races will begin at Aja Port at 10 A.M. and will continue throughout the day. There will be 2 separate categories for menıs and womenıs teams with the teams consisting of 33 members.

Directions: Head south on Hwy. 58 towards Naha. Continue past the southern part of Camp Kinser, just past the series of auto dealerships, Highway 58 will split into an overpass and underpass. Stay in the left lane and make a right underneath the over pass. Continue to the first traffic light and make a left. This four lane road will lead you to Aja Port.

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