Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dragon Boat Races

Another part of Golden Week involves the Dragon Boat Races, an Okinawan tradition that occurs all over the island.  This event began back in the 14th century to honor the god of the sea.  Crowds gather to watch teams as they furiously row their brightly colored boats, painted to resemble fierce dragons.  The teams are made up of groups of people from all over Okinawa - Japanese and American alike.  In fact, the US Navy women's team is always one of the top teams each year!  It's a special event that brings together so many different people, cheering for the end of one race as another one begins.  

The races, called Haarii (a Chinese word meaning "dragon"), are generally accompanied by food, games, music and festivities, the biggest celebration being held at the port in downtown Naha.  Although I've missed the past couple years of races, I made up for it this year by getting to go to the White Beach races as well as the big Naha races.  Matt and I parked near downtown and rode our bikes over to the big festival, which was a fun and unique way to experience it.  It was exciting to be a part of the rich Okinawan culture at both events - so glad I got to see them!