- - - 10/21/2007 - - -

Naha Tug of War

Filed under: — Andy @ 8:09 am

Every year the main event of the Naha Festival is a giant tug-of-war competition (This year was 10/14). This is not a normal tug-of-war, but one where everyone joins in and pulls on the biggest rope in the world. Officially recognized by Guinness World Records, the rope supposedly gets bigger every year.

The rope goes from where you see it to the traffic light… and that is only one half of the rope.
The other half, also meaning the other team, is equally as long.

The leaders for our team discussing strategy before the competition.

As the time draws near the road is cleared and the leaders mount and prepare the rope.

Then the processions start. Many teams carrying giant flags make their way to the center of the intersection. Usually, the entire heavy flag is left to one man to carry at a time with others only there to prevent it from falling.

Once all the teams and flags are in the center, designated by a giant gold ball, the ceremony starts. First with some speeches and then the flag teams compete with each other.

Once the official ceremonies are over, absolutely everyone and anyone rushes in and grabs the rope. Then, at the leaders’ whistle, everyone pulls and the two parts of the rope are dragged together.

One the two halves meet, the leaders, with lots of helpers pushing with pointy sticks, join the rope together.

This was taken afterwards, but to show you how the ropes were joined…

Once joined, another procession is led from each end along the length to the center where the two fight a mock battle with the staff and nunchucks.

Then a little more preparations and speeches…

Finally, the ball opens and the competition begins!

The battle lasts for at least a half an hour with thousands of people pulling on either end of the giant rope. The leaders blow their whistle to keep everyone pulling together and encourage everyone to pull harder.

Finally after one side pulls the rope only 10 meters the battle is over. Of course, my side won :) At which point the winning team jumps up on the rope and celebrates.

When the celebration is over, everyone pulls out portable saws or paper cutters or giant pocket knives or scissors, really anything sharp and dangerous, and starts cutting away at the rope to take pieces home with them.

Did I mention I rode my bicycle 18 kilometers to Naha to take part in the competition, and after tugging against 1000 people on the biggest rope in the world, rode my bike the 18 kilometers back. That evening I was tired but really enjoyed the festival and would love to take part in it again.


  1. Andy,

    That festival looks cool! I imagine it was a high-energy affair.

    BTW - Look at the Japanese guy behind you in the last pic doing the ‘V’ sign. Victory for what? Did that guy pull the rope? Japanese always instinctively give the ‘V’ sign in pics and it’s starting to wear on me. I’m starting to think I’d almost be happier if they showed some balls and flipped me off instead!!!


    Comment by Matt Ulrich — 10/22/2007 @ 9:15 am
  2. faboo

    Comment by Ken — 10/28/2007 @ 3:33 pm

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