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Haarii excitement fills Okinawa Golden Week

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2008-05-02

Schools, banks, government offices and a good many businesses have their windows shuttered and doors locked this week as Okinawa celebrates Golden Week, but the real exciting news is the Naha Haari.

The Naha Haarii Festival kicks off Saturday and runs through Monday at Aja Port. The festivities coincide with three of the national holidays during Golden Week; Constitution Day on Saturday, National Day on Sunday, and Children’s Day on Monday. Showa Day, celebrated Tuesday, honors the former Emperor Hirohito, known by his posthumous name, Emperor Showa. National Day is really an in-between day, not symbolizing anything except the Japanese desire to have three consecutive holidays.

Haari means dragon boat race, a term originally from China, symbolizing good harvests and safe fishing for fishermen. The haarii numerous across Okinawa during the summer, but the Naha Haarii is special in the sense its boats are different, with special dragon tails carved at the sterns of boats. Boats in the Naha Haarii, which take place May 5th, are also larger than those found in other community races.

Saturday and Sunday are pretty much designed as festival fun days, encompassing the start of the three-day holiday weekend. Aja Port in Naha, 1-16-10 Minato Machi, will be filled with people flocking to take in the virtually non-stop entertainment on a pair of stages. Races are by category, with children, community groups or companies, and the American military taking on the Japanese Self Defense Forces.

Monday morning, dragon boats are in the water, with a series of races scheduled throughout the day. The championship race is set for 4:45 p.m. The traditional Okinawa dragon boat races originated in China, and now take center stage at local festivals each summer across the islands.

Fireworks are essential to every Okinawa festival, and the Naha Haari is no exception. Dazzling pyrotechnic displays will take place each evening, beginning at 8:40 p.m.

10:00 – Opening Ceremonies
10:30 – OTV sponsored Sumo wrestling tournament
10:30 – Junior high school students brass bands performance
11:00 – PTA and junior high school students dragon boat race
12:00 – Local comedian show with Sachiko Nakada
1:00 – Okinawa dance with Hanayakara Children’s Grou
1:45 – Mini live music
4:30 – Live music with Miwa Cocoa
6:00 – Hirara and David Ralston Live
7:45 – D51 live
8:40 – Fireworks

10:00 – OTV weight lifting tournament
11:00 – Dragon boat rides
11:00 – Children’s shows (also at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.)
12:30 – Aerobics Tournament
4:10 – Live music
7:30 – Diamantes
8:40 – Fireworks

10:30 – Dragon boat races begin
1:00 – Dance shows (Polynesian, Hawaiian, Framenco)
3:00 – Chinese Martial Arts
4:45 – Final Dragon Boat Race
6:00 – Indiise Live Festa
8:40 -- Fireworks

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