Military teams preparing vessels for the dragon boat races at Naha
Stars and Stripes May 4, 2008
The Navy women’s and men’s dragon boat teams are set to defend their titles Monday at the 34th Naha Hari at the Tomari Port, Naha City, Okinawa.
The Naha Hari is a three-day celebration that concludes with Monday’s dragon boat races at the port. Every year, military teams compete in the races for bragging rights.
The dragon boat races came to Okinawa from China more than 500 years ago and are held throughout the island “as a ritual for the safety of fishing and the good catch,” according to the Naha City Tourism Association Web site.
The Naha race traditionally sees more than 150,000 spectators urging on local and U.S. military teams who compete in heats, paddling three colorfully decorated boats with dragon mastheads. The best times win in various categories. And there is definitely a rivalry among the military teams.
Last year, the Navy women denied the Army women’s team its fourth straight win.
“The Army ladies are really trying to take back their trophy,” Gunnery Sgt. Joy Craig, co-captain of the Navy team, said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.
The Air Force men’s team last year also lost out to the Navy men by just a fraction of a second “and are looking to redeem themselves,” she added.
The festival is also open Saturday and Sunday with food, beer, live entertainment and games. It opens each day at 11 a.m., and admission is free.
From Kadena Air Base, Camp Foster or Camp Kinser, take Highway 58 south.
Continue to the Tomari Intersection, which is marked by an English and Japanese sign.
Turn right and continue along that road to the T-intersection. Turn right again.
You should soon see the festival site on your left.