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Boat races to mark festival

by Han Zhang

Staff Writer

While Okinawa is known for waves and boats yearround, these summery things never draw more attention than they do on the day of the Hare Festival.

A number of small events will be held across the area, acting as prayers for a bountiful ocean harvest and safe passage on the seas. Among these events, the Itoman Hare Festival is the most well-known. It’s held to mark the end of the rainy season (believed to be the fourth day of the fifth month according to the lunar calendar) and is known as the hare buni, an old Okinawan word for “racing boat.” And at the festival, boat races are the main spectacle.

The opening of Itoman Hare begins with the ringing of a Hare Bell on top of Santinmo Hill, overlooking the Itoman Port a week in advance of the festival day. Various events and games can be seen on June 23, beginning with a parade around the port at 9:30 a.m.

Kunukase is a game that aims to test fishermen’s ship-handling skills. All boats are capsized and then the rowers must right the boat and row back to the finish line. The final race, agai subu, in which the best rowers take part in is considered to be the most entertaining for spectators.

For a list of Hare Festival events in Okinawa, visit www.okinawastory.jp/en/special/hari/index.html. The Itoman Hare Festival takes place at Itoman Fishing Port in Itoman, Okinawa Prefecture, on June 23. For more information, visit www.city.itoman.okinawa.jp/section/syoukou/page2/hare_eng.htm.