Sunday, October 10, 2010


by Pa Rock
Street Ninjas
Cultural Explorer

I almost didn't think that I would get to go to the big tug-of-war in Naha today because I misplaced (probably lost) my military ID card, but I took my passport, orders, and hospital badge and was able to talk my way past the gate guards and onto Kadena where I caught the tour bus to the big event.

Those of us who rode the buses to Naha were given nice printed histories of the tug-of-war as well as cotton gloves to keep from getting our hands burned as we pulled on the ropes.  I will share that history of the event later this week - perhaps tomorrow.

Ready?  On the count of three!
The main rope, made from rice straw, was about one meter thick and laid in the middle of the street like so much very dead weight.  There were smaller ropes connected to the big one, and they were what people pulled.  There were thousands of people participating and that big sucker did move, but I have no idea which team wound up winning.

At one point I climbed over the rope to get a better view from the other side.  It addition to the rope, there were the ubiquitous food vendors, youngsters in the crowds putting on marshal arts demonstrations, and beautiful banners and displays held aloft by groups of colorfully clad young men.  The soundtrack for the event was continuous banging firecrackers and blasts from metal whistles blown by the guys who stood atop the rope urging the pullers onward.

One of my highlights for the day happened when I left the commotion and slipped quietly back to the area where we were supposed meet the buses.  I sat down on a park bench fifty feet or so from the bus stop just to relax and let my feet swell.  Across from me, about twenty feet away, sat an Okinawan gentleman about my age.  As I got comfortable, he began to sing - and he sang loudly, clearly, and beautifully.  His songs were in Japanese and had a cadence that was reminiscent of Native American chants.  I did recognize Silent Night and the old pop Japanese song from the 1960's, Sukiyaki.  After forty-five minutes or so of relaxing and listening to his music, I got up and walked past him to the vending machines.  The fellow smiled at me in a way that seemed to say "thanks for enjoying my songs.."  Then he followed me to the machines and spoke several sentences to me in Japanese.  I told him his songs were beautiful, and he seemed to understand my words.    He smiled and walked off.  I felt like I had been the only guest at a very special concert.  It is a memory that I will keep.
Several People Were Required to Keep
the Huge Banners Aloft

The other highlight was having dinner tonight at the Kadena Chili's with friends Murphy and Nefredia.  We relaxed, laughed quite a bit, and solved many of life's thorny issues!

Enjoy the photos.  There are many more to follow!

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