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Dragon boat races add excitement to Golden Week

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2007-05-02

The excitement-filled Naha Haarii kicks off a three-day run today at Shinko Wharf, winding up Saturday with a series of dragon boat races.

Today is also Constitution Day in honor of the post war constitution passed in 1947. Greenery Day tomorrow is another holiday, followed by Children’s Day on Saturday. The holidays bring down the curtain on Golden Week, which officially ends Sunday. Five national holidays form the Golden Week, which is one of Japan and Okinawa’s largest holiday periods of the year during which tens of thousands take vacations and travel.

Opening ceremonies, a sumo wrestling tournament, school bands, comedians and music launch the Naha Haarii in downtown Naha City today. The first dragon boat races of the season are today, too, with junior high school and P.T.A. teams vying against one another.

The traditional Okinawan dragon boat race custom originated centuries ago in China, as a part of prayers for safety and good harvests. Today, dragon boat races are held throughout OkinawaŠin small villages as well as the more organized festivities of the big cities. Naha Haarii is the largest of the festivals, with a dozen boats with hand carved heads and dragon faces, and tails in the form of dragon tails. The main dragon boat races are Saturday, with the challenges beginning at 10:30 a.m. The finals take place starting at 4:40 p.m. following the traditional prayers to the ocean’s god for safety. Races are by category, with children, community groups or companies, and the American military taking on the Japanese Self Defense Forces.

No festival is complete without fireworks, and Naha Haarii organizers have fantastic fireworks shows planned for tonight and tomorrow night at 8:40 p.m., and again Saturday beginning at 8:30 p.m. The three-day schedule has something for everyone:

10:00 Opening ceremonies at the main gate to Shinko Wharf
10:30 OTV organized sumo wrestling tournament
11:00 Junior high school students brass band performance
11:00 Junior high school and PTA dragon boat race
12:00 Sachiko Nakada Comedian show on main stage
1:00 Okinawa Traditional Theater comedian show
4:00 Siori, Nanako Ashimine, Thirsty Road at main stage
7:40 Live Jazz music on main stage
8:40 Fireworks

10:00 Home Town Theater at main stage
10:00 Coast Guard ship public show
10:00 Sany Clean Flea Market at sub-stage
11:00 Dragon Boat public rides
11:00 Children’s shows at sub-stage
12:00 Aerobics tournament on main stage
6:00 Indiees Live Concert at main stage
8:40 Fireworks

10:30 Haarii dragon boat races
12:00 Miss Naha Campaign ladies’ show
12:30 Sachiko Nakada comedian show
2:50 Original Okinawa Song Show at main stage
4:40 Dragon boat race finals
5:15 Reina Concert on main stage
7:00 Diamantes Concert on main stage
8:30 Fireworks finale

There are dozens of other festivals, concerts and special events taking place across the island through the weekend. Consider a Flower & Herb Festival at Nago Paradise, the Yambaru Anettaien Flower Festival, the Okinawa Fruit Land Flower Festival at Okinawa Fruits Land Park in Nago City,Okinawa Kodomo-no Kuni Festival at the Okinawa City Zoo, the Yambaru Koinobori Festival in Oku Village, the Hija River Koinobori Festival in Hija River, Kadena Town, or the Children’s Festival at Okinawa Peace Memorial Park in Itoman City.

A full listing of events, times and costs are in the Events This Week column of Japan Update.

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