Army helps Naha prepare for Oct. 12 Giant Tug-of-War
NAHA, Okinawa -- Representatives from the U.S. Army and the city of Naha gathered at Naha Military Port Monday to test the strength of a 43-ton rope to be used in this weekend’s annual Giant Tug-of-War festival and parade.
Deputy Naha Mayor Mikiko Shiroma along with several local officials assembled at the military port amidst a flurry of media to observe the final stages of the rope-making process, ensuring it can withstand the might of hundreds of people tugging from opposing ends. According to officials, the Naha Military Port has been used for more than 20 years as the rope-making site for the event, which traces its origin to the Ryukyu Empire of the early 18th Century.
“It has developed to be one of the biggest and [most] famous events in Okinawa after its restoration in 1971,” said Shoken Teruya, executive secretary of the event’s committee. “The event was restored after a long break on Oct. 10, 1971 as one of the memorial events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Naha city's municipal government and to show the recovered city from the war,” he said.
More than 30,000 people are expected to attend what officials describe as the greatest traditional event in Okinawa Sunday. The epic contest pits east Naha residents against their counterparts from the west, as each side will heave on a massive 100-meter section of rice straw rope to preserve the cultural inheritance of Okinawa, promote mutual understanding and promote peace, according to the official website.
“Anyone around the world … is very welcomed to join the event,” said Teruya. “One of the meanings of pulling the ropes is ‘to pull the peace.’ So, it is one of the very important purposes of the event that all the members from different countries join the event and pull the ropes together by uniting their strength as one team for the world peace.”
Since the event was revived in 1971, U.S. military personnel have been presented with special gallery seating to promote gratitude and friendship, according to officials.
“I think it builds bridges and makes the community stronger by showing the people that we can come together as a team to make the event a success,” said Maj. Willis D. Rawls, executive officer, 835th Transportation Battalion. “The U.S. Army on Okinawa supports the local community.”
Sunday’s parade will begin at 11:30 a.m. on Kokusai Street and the tug-of-war will start at 2:30 p.m. at the intersection of Highway 58 and Kokusai Street.