If you’re like me, when you think of tug-o-war it takes you back to your youth. To the golden age of summer camps and coming of age stories. Where a rag-tag bunch come together to prove to not only themselves but everyone around them that anyone can be a winner in life. It’s a heartwarming tale that will melt even the coldest of hearts and teach some much needed life lessons.
The annual festival of Naha, Okinawa, Japan takes this to a whole other level.
How it started
An annual festival believed to be traced as far back as the 17th century. It is a staple of the Naha’s long standing traditions. This continues to be a bucket-list worthy item to any traveler and adventure seeker’s list.
I was stationed in Okinawa while serving in the military. I decided to make my way to Naha City once I heard about this festival. As this was a perfect opportunity to explore a side of the Okinawan culture I had never experienced.
Arriving to the festival
This is a 3 day event but the main attraction is on Saturday. You’ll be with hundreds if not at least a few thousand people along the city streets. From Japanese locals, American military, and numerous tourists as it is an international event. Be sure to get there early. This will allow you to have plenty of time to enjoy food from the local street vendors. Maybe check out the local art exhibits. But maker sure to get a good spot of participate.
It was so crowded I had no idea where the rope started and where it ended. I mean, this tug-o-war goes on for blocks throughout one of the main streets of the city. I was able to reach somewhere around the middle and found myself face to face with the biggest rope I had ever seen. The main rope was close to my height at 5’11 and I could barely see on the other side of it. Coming from it were smaller ropes that would we use to grab and pull for the honor of our side. The rope is actually made from rice straw. It can weighs up to 40-43 tons. East vs West, there isn’t any real intense rivalry. We were all there to enjoy this festival and participate in its annual tradition.