Monday, October 11, 2010

History of Okinawa's Tug-of-War

Balloon lady
Crowd facing large guide-ons at center of event
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Okinawa's famous tug-of-war dates back to 1600 and has been held continuously for over four hundred years except for a brief interlude during World War II.  The competition was originally a contest between those who depended on the sea and their neighbors who farmed.  It is said that if the east side (facing the ocean) won, there would be an abundant catch for the year, and if the west side son, there would be a fine harvest.

Food vendors
The gigantic rope used in modern competitions is two meters thick, 200 meters in length (656 feet), and weighs more than forty metric tons (44 American tons).  It is made entirely of woven rice straw.  There are many smaller extensions attached to the main rope that the competitors pull on, and after the contest is over, participants cut off pieces of these extensions and take them home for good luck throughout the year.

Estimates are that over 25,000 people are involved in the tug-of-war each year.  Yesterday's competition drew at least that many people.

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