The tug-of-war used to be held to pray for rain and a good crop or to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. It is believed that the tug-of-war in every area was held on June’s kashichii day, when people offered steamed new rice on an altar to rid the rice fields of pests, and on Aug. 15, the final day of the rice harvest, in the days when Okinawa had a flourishing rice industry. The tug-of-war was an event at which everyone in the area, regardless of age or sex, could participate, personifying the Okinawan concept of “yuimaaru” – meaning to help or work together. Tugs-of-war became particularly popular after World War II, and the Naha Great Tug-of-War is the biggest such event in Okinawa, held as part of the Naha Festival every fall. Naha’s rope, certified in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest in the world, measures 186 meters in length, 1.56 meters in diameter and 40 tons in gross weight. Differing from tugs-of-war in other areas, the Naha event, which used to be held for national prosperity and to welcome Chinese goodwill ambassadors, is a traditional tug-of-war with a proud 350-year history.|
Naha Great Tug-of-War
This October event is one of the three biggest festivals in Okinawa, although tugs-of-war are generally held around Aug. 15 of the lunar calendar. With the coming of World War II, tug-of-wars ceased to be held; however, they were revived in 1971 due to the Okinawan passion for tradition. This is a traditional cultural event that has been carried on for over 350 years.
You can see individuals dressed in various costumes representing archers, samurai warriors and dragons atop the rope, leading their teams to victory. The tug-of-war begins between the East and West teams when the participants confront each other at the center of the rope. Compared to the Naha Great Tug-of-War, which attracts many tourists, the Maezato Tug-of-War in Itoman is a more traditional, community-based festival that has been passed down for generations.