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Hija River festival to celebrate Soukan Noguni

Date Posted: 2005-04-23

The annual Hija River Festival that is held in Kadena Town this Sunday takes an extra meaning this year it being the 400th anniversary of the introduction of the sweet potato to Okinawa from China.

The introduction of the new staple to Okinawan diet is credited to a local court official called Noguni. Soukan is his title that translates roughly as secretary. Not much else is known about the man, but so remarkable was his introduction of the sweet potato that it saved his and generations of Okinawans thereafter from earlier frequent famine and starvation.

The Hija River Festival, the 11th this year also features carp streamers hung over the river. In Japan, carp is considered the strongest of fish, and it has long been the symbol of boys.

The festival promises to be the most colorful to date, as no less than 640 of the colorful carp streamers fly in the wind over the river the longest of them being eight meters long. The festival s organized by Kadena Town Social Welfare Office that also maintains the streamers. Their number increased by 160 this year thanks to 66-year-old Takeo Higa who recently retired from the Town Office after working there 16 years. Upon his retirement he presented the 160 streamers that he had collected over the years to the town for use in the festival.

Other events planned for the festival include a concert, raft race down the river and food and drinks。The Kadena Town Office has also gone an extra mile in order to clean the festival site, so that people of any age can enjoy safely the day of fun.

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