Members of the local and U.S. communities on Okinawa took part in Dragon Boat Races May 12, 2019, in Henoko, Okinawa, Japan. Three American teams made to the women’s final and there were waiting for a signal to start the race. (Photo by Ike Hirayasu)
Members of the local and U.S. communities on Okinawa took part in Dragon Boat Races May 12, 2019, in Henoko, Okinawa, Japan. Three American teams made to the women’s final and there were waiting for a signal to start the race. (Photo by Ike Hirayasu)

Henoko Dragon Boat Races: A century-old tradition

by Ike Hirayasu
U.S. Marine Corps

HENOKO, OKINAWA, Japan -- Members of the local and U.S. communities on Okinawa took part in Dragon Boat Races May 12 in Henoko, Okinawa.

Dragon Boat Races are festivals held throughout Okinawa during the summer to thank the sea for its blessings, praying for a safe voyage and a good catch. Boat teams compete for speed in a hand-crafted fishing boat.

The Henoko Dragon Boat Race is a century-old traditional event which has included Marines and sailors from Camp Schwab since 1973.

“We are here to compete in Okinawan traditional Dragon Boat Races”, said Col. Jason S.D. Perry, Camp Schwab commanding officer. “We are a single community in Henoko and the Marines, sailors, and civilian community in Camp Schwab is considered as 11th residential section of Henoko.”

A total of 38 teams participated in this year’s race, including 10 American teams and a team consisting of a member of the House of Representative, Masahisa Miyazaki, and a former Ginowan City Mayor, Atsushi Sakima, who also participated from Ginowan City.

Nago City Mayor, Taketoyo Toguchi, and Robert Koepoke, the Consul General of the United States to Naha, were also attended to watch the races.

“As a member of the community, many teams from Camp Schwab participate in each year to make the event exciting”, said Futoshi Kohagura, mayor of Henoko. “Camp Schwab is part of Henoko and we welcome Marines every year.”

Samuel Epperson, a retired Sergeant Major of Camp Schwab who lives in Henoko for over 30 years, has been serving as a master of ceremony for Henoko’s events to American audience.

“It’s a great opportunity for young Marines to participate in local culture and seems to be they are enjoying it” said Epperson. “Sharing culture between Japan and the United Stets is very important, and it is great to share some of the traditional events here.”

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