Itoman Hare Dragon Boat Race

Itoman's three old villeages teams race against each other

May 4th on the Chinese calendar is the day of “Haarii” or “Hare”, Okinawa’s dragon boat, and the dragon boat races are held on this day or its weekend in Okinawa, especially in the southern part of Okinawa Island where traditional events and festivities are practiced according to the lunar calendar.

In 2016, June 8th was that day, and many locals and tourists gathered in Itoman for Itoman Hare, one of the biggest dragon boat races in the prefecture.

I went to the fishing town on the southern edge of Okinawa Island to cover the story for a travel website this year.

Here are some actions from Itoman Hare:

Hare dragon boat races are held at Itoman Fishing Port surrounded by a crowd of locals and tourists.
Itoman Fishing Port becomes an arena for the Hare races on this day.
Two Hare boats and oars sit on a dock.
Traditional wooden Hare boats.
Tree leaves as an ornament for a boat
These tree leaves on each boat are probably placed as a holy ornament.
People swim to catch ducks during the duck catch race
The Duck catch race is another thing that Itoman Hare is famous for. From kids to adults, people chase ducks in the port. You can bring ducks home if you catch them.
Kids musicians hold sanshin on a boat.
Sometimes kids perform Okinawa folk music on a boat between races and go around the port to entertain the crowd.

In the final race of the Hare festival called AGAISUBU, the Hare teams from the three old villages of Itoman row 2,185 meters. It’s probably the most exciting race of the festival and the most physically demanding one for the rowers for sure.

Two Hare boats go around the race official boat before the final.
Just before AGAISUBU, the final long distance race of the Hare Festival, old villages teams go around the race official boat a few times.
Navy-blue and red teams row their Hare boats
In AGAISUBU, rowers of Nishimura (navy-blue) and Miijima (red) fight hard each other.
Nakamura rowers work hard to pick up the pace.
Making a Hare boat go faster is a serious job and requires teamwork.
Rowers raise their rows in syncronization
Nishimura team won the 2,185m race.

If you happened to be around in Okinawa during this time of the year, I highly recommend attending this event to see exciting races and perhaps to catch a duck as well.


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