Naha’s Tug-of-War (part deux): The Festivities

Before the main event of actually pulling the giant rope, there were plenty of festival activities that went on. It made the wait more bearable for us attendees. Me and my friend, Joshua, wandered around where the festival members staged at to chill, eat, drink, fix their customes, and prepare themselves before the actual event begins.


Luckily, the ones we hang out with have extra pastime shenanigans for us to witness – the passing of the bottle of wine.



This was not new to me. I had seen a simlar one before during a Greek Festival in Ventura, California. I was surprised to see it again here in Japan. People around the circle sing and chant. The person with the bottle dances, drinks from the bottle and passes it onto the next one.


Now, the very fun part is when my friend got invited to be in the center to drink it.



This guy did a little exhibition. 🙂


They also sang, made jokes and danced some more. Up until the magic begins …


The city festival representatives paraded in the streets with children raising flags, playing music, and the men holding on to their hatagashira, a pole with their specific banner on top of it.

Holding on to that pole is no easy task. Those men displayed strength and resilience carrying that heavy pole. There were times that the poles tilted down to almost dropping. Part of the whole presentation is to see which city district stablizes their banner the best.

There’s also a karate demonstration at the center of the event.


Then everyone’s favorite – the bringing of the Ryukyu kings assimilating the battle between East and West.


They met in the middle, act like they were fighting, and returned back to the rear.


This ended all the presentations and started the pulling of the giant rope…


Click here for The Pulling of the Rope.


Naha’s Tug-of-War is not just about the rope itself. It truly is a myriad of colors, fun and excitement, sportsmanship and overall exhibit of culture and tradition. An absolutely event sure not to be missed if you happened to come to this island in the month of October. I took a piece of this event with me.


I was speaking literally. I really came prepared bringing a knife, and I cut a piece of the rope to take home with me. These ladies were happy to get their piece as well.


I love the contrast on this image of a girl looking up to one of the banner poles (hatagashira), which I think says a lot about traveling and it captures the essence of coming into a cultural event…


Surely an unmissable experience, Naha’s Great Tug-of-War easily goes down as the best event in my book.



Eventful trips?

104. Wandering Cha will take you to the beauty and heart of the Philippines. Check out events, ziplining, diving, children laughing, hiking, everyday fishermen and farmers, and people she met along the way. This blogger is a legit traveller, as well as an eloquent travel writer. She even manages to get the most fun even when she travels solo. Be amazed with her photography. She captures the magnificent views of Philippines, and portaits the infectuous smiles and captiving eyes of the locals.

41 replies »

  1. Looks amazing. Naha is one place I haven’t been to in Japan. It seems like an interesting place. With everyone drinking from bottles, I was expecting a bit of fire breathing to be going on, but I guess it’s just a traditional custom.

  2. Festival shows so much about the country’s culture and history. Japanese costumes are fascinating! Thank you for the tour, Rommel. I can almost feel the spirit 🙂

  3. now it makes me wonder, has there ever been a hatagashira mishap? amazing eclectic scenes from the sharing of bottle, the demos and finally the tug rope. delightful!

    • I’m not too sure about the mishap. So many people there. Those hatagashira deceptively are heavy. One pole falling down would be very tragic. Yikes! Hard to imagine. There’s supposed to be a Hatagashira Festival at the end of October. They’re not doing it this year. 😦

      • oh, darn for not doing the Oct. festival – i bet they will come up with something to replace it with all that energy they have… ☺

  4. I never thought I’d be included in your list of featured blogs.Thanks. I hope I can can encourage visitors to the country 🙂

    I bet the girl (is she being piggybacked? cool!) would also love that pic if she’d see it. A great way to depict her cultural immersion.

    It would have been more fun by the way if you were also invited to drink and dance in the center like your friend 🙂

    • No, they knew I was busy taking pictures in different angle. Ahihihi. I don’t drink much anyway.

      When I first saw your blog, I knew I will eventually feature you. It just took too long because I had months of hiatus.

  5. I knew that Okinawa is the birthplace of karate, and that Gichin Funakoshi introduced karate to Japan in 1920 but who are the Ryuky kings and what was this battle of east and west?

    • You got that right, Allan! There is a castle here in Okinawa which I’m dying to visit. The castle is the point birthplace of karate. I’m just finding to right timing to visit it. About the Ryukyu, there is this group of islands in south of Japan. Collectively, they are known as Ryukyu islands. Basically, almost every person with an ancestoral background of someone who lived in Okinawa way back in the days are Ryukyu people. There really isn’t much deal about East versus West, it’s just the tug-of-war thing. There are plenty of competition between different cities though festivals like Eisa Festival, Hatagashira Festival and the upcoming Kijimuna Festival for youth. It’s all friendly competitions.

  6. That’s no ordinary rope! Wow! What a fun day of festivities. I love the way everyone came together with so much ceremony and common interest! You captured the colors of the day so nicely. 🙂

    • Ow, the diversity of people who came was amazing. I heard bunch of languages floating around while we were waiting. All united to have fun and sink in this tradition. Just Awesome!

  7. You know what that wine passing remind me of ? The guys in the Philippines in a circle with one glass to share the “tuba” or Tanduay.
    Great capture of events. Im learning from you on that aspect of photography.

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