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Horse racing on Miyako beach adds new dimension for riders

Date Posted: 2005-07-09

Racing enthusiasts the world over enjoy watching the thoroughbreds coming out of the starting gate to make their way around the oval track.

On Miyako Island, it doesn’t work that way. Try the beach!

Miyako’s horses are a very sturdy breed with very short legs but strength and endurance. They raced along the beach at low tide, running the 700 meter course back and forth three times, pounding through the sand. It was all part of a Miyako festival over the holiday weekend, using not only the beach, but some of the dry tidelands just outside Shimoji Town.

For human racers, there were several options. One challenge was for men to drag a sleigh down the beach. Another was an 11-legged race where the 11 competitors’ ankles were bound, leaving them to more or less hop along the beach race course. Events were open to both men and women.

Sumo wrestling, Miyako style, is also a different sport. Missing are the smooth, staid movements of traditional sumo, replaced with wrestlers who find themselves intertwined one with another, each trying to score points by touching the opponent’s back.

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