The 49th Annual Naha Great Tug-of-War Festival

A festival attendee pulls the 200-meter-long, 43-ton rope during the 49th annual Naha Great Tug-of-War Festival, Oct. 13, 2019 at Naha City, Okinawa, Japan. The event symbolizes a struggle between warring factions during the reign of the Ryukyu Kingdom on Okinawa. The event is considered the world’s largest tug-of-war. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brennan J. Beauton)
A festival attendee pulls the 200-meter-long, 43-ton rope during the 49th annual Naha Great Tug-of-War Festival, Oct. 13, 2019 at Naha City, Okinawa, Japan. The event symbolizes a struggle between warring factions during the reign of the Ryukyu Kingdom on Okinawa. The event is considered the world’s largest tug-of-war. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brennan J. Beauton)

The 49th Annual Naha Great Tug-of-War Festival

by Lance Cpl. Brennan Beauton
Marine Corps Installations Pacific

NAHA, OKINAWA, Japan – Members of the local and U.S. communities celebrated the 49th annual Naha Great Tug-of-War Festival from Oct. 12 to 14, 2019 at Naha, Okinawa, Japan.

The three-day festival is held on the second weekend in October every year. The largest event features a tug-of-war which uses a 200-meter-long rope made of rice straw and weighs 43 tons, a Guinness World Record.

“I have heard about this event ever since I arrived on island, so I had been looking forward to it,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jordan Gorham, a data systems administrator with 7th communications battalion and a native of Virginia Beach, VA. “It was really cool to experience such a rich tradition our host nation puts on for the entire island to come enjoy.”

The first day of the festival is celebrated with folk art performances and a folk traditional arts parade.

On the second day, Town Flag Processions parade around Kokusai Street, followed by the tug-of-war at the Kumoji intersection.

The cultural event represents Okinawa as a tradition to wish for happiness and peace, family harmony, prosperous business, blessing of fertility and good health, according to the Office of the Conservation Society of the Naha Giant Tug-of-War.

This tradition traces back to the 17th century when the rulers from the East and West side of Okinawa would come together for the competition.

It attracts thousands of participants each year who come to pull the rope for either the East or West. People of all ages, sex and nationality become one as they pull the rope.

“We are here building community relations,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Trevor Evan, a combat engineer with Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler-Marine Corps Installations Pacific and a native of Linden, NJ. “We have a bunch of Single Marine Program volunteers and service members participating in the event. At the end of the event they give you a piece of the rope, which is a pretty cool souvenir because not many people get to travel the world and experience such a unique event.”

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