Hundreds of Thousands battle 40-ton rope at world’s largest tug-of-war on Okinawa
NAHA, Okinawa — The tug of war has long been used to build a little camaraderie for a fun competition. Now imagine the rope is 200 meters long and weighs 40 metric tons with 15,000 people pulling on each side.
That was the scene Sunday as hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets of Naha to revel in a tradition that dates back to the 1600s. Held on Route 58, the event is a battle between the East and West teams, which correlates with the competition between two rulers in the Naha area throughout the days of old.
It has developed into a tradition to bring prosperity to Okinawa and good health to all participants. Regardless of age or nationality, this is an event everybody can participate in and feel like a part of the whole. The event truly embodies the soul of Okinawa.
The buildup for the daylong festival started in the morning with a parade featuring Hatagashira, or banner, handlers of all ages, with the staccato sounds of firecrackers adding to the lively atmosphere.
As the time for the tug-of-war approached, two massive ropes, representing the east and the west, were joined using a large wood pillar. The Guinness Book of World Records listed the rope used in 1995-2005 as the world’s largest rice straw rope used in a tug-of-war.
The tension built as the two teams waited for the mayor of Naha City, who was the chief judge of the event, to finally gave the signal to start just after 4 p.m.
Loud calls of “haaiya!” — “pull!” — resounded as the participants dug in. It was quite a sight as nearly 30,000 people worked together with one goal in mind.
Nearly 45 minutes later, the West side finally triumphed. Participants got pieces of the rope as souvenirs as the crowd dispersed.