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Rafts, Eisa, Dragon Boats, Fireworks highlight weekend beach carnivals

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2009-07-23

Dragon boat races are taking place in several locations across Okinawa this weekend, but none matches the challenges visitors to the 23rd Seaport Chatan Carnival can face.

Instead of being merely spectators, guests to Chatan's annual carnival can become part of the action themselves, as part of a raft team riding the waters in an obstacle race. Thirty teams, each with four members, will take to the waters at Chatan Park's Sunset Beach on Saturday. Men and women are participating as mixed teams, too. Each team has the organizers' green light to design costumes and teams' flags. Team members must be at least 12 years old.

Sundays Seaport Chatan Carnival fun turns to the more traditional Haarii races, but again, the participants are the guests. Each team must have 11 members, all must be over 12 years of age, and all must know how to swim. Same day registration Sunday is permissible at the Haarii tent on the carnival grounds.

Admission to the 23rd Seaport Chatan Carnival is free. An Indies music contest takes place on Saturday, running form 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Fireworks exhibitions will cap each of the carnival's two days at 8:30 p.m. Organizers say bad weather will result in the races being canceled.

Chatan’s not the only place for weekend festival fun. The Toyosaki Festival also runs Saturday and Sunday at Toyosaki Kaihin Park and Toyosaki Beach, with haarii races being the order of the day…both days. Haarii races, for those new to Okinawa, date back to the Ryukyu Kingdom’s dynasty days, when races were started at Tomigusuku castle and along the castle’s riverfront. One of Tomigusuku castle’s kings had visited China more than 600 years ago, bringing the race concept back to Okinawa.

Tomigusuku has a long history of friendship, cultural and economic exchanges with China, and brings it all to the festival grounds for the annual event, which even includes an international karaoke festival with Korea and China joining Okinawan singers.

On Okinawa’s north side, not far from Ginoza, the Kanna Dam Festival takes place on Sunday at the Kanna Dam and Riverside Park. From the 11 a.m. opening ceremonies to the 8 p.m. fireworks, there’s plenty for visitors to take in. Beginning with the Kanna Elementary School Children’s chorus at 11:40 a.m., the entertainment is continuous throughout the afternoon and early evening. Taiko drum performances, religious and radio special broadcasts, a local hula dance, a quiz, a time with the Japan Basketball League champion Ryukyu Golden Kings players at 5:30 p.m., and live music and street dances on stage til 8 p.m., are enough to keep everyone happy.

Aside from the action on stage, there’ll be ‘experience programs’ including a windmill handicrafts corner, log cutting, toy handicraft, woodworking classes for adults and children, nature quizzes, activities involving water, and entertainment and food activities.

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