Naha Tsunahiki Tug-of-war

Every year around October 10, thousands of people crowd Highway 58 in Naha to participate in the Naha Tsunahiki (tug-of-war).  The handmade rope is measured at 560 feet in length and weighs over 40 tons and it is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest rope.


"Yoisho!"
(heave-ho!)

tsunahiki

Every year on October 10, thousands of people crowd Highway 58 in Naha to participate in the Naha Tsunahiki (tug-of-war).  The handmade rope is measured at 560 feet in length and weighs over 40 tons and it is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest rope.  There are many tsunahikis that are held in Okinawa, but Naha’s tug-of-war is the largest.

tsunahiki rope

Pictured above is the knot that joins the two sides of the rope.  The platforms hold the kings of the opposing sides (East and West sides of Naha), where they perform a dramatization of a challenge prior to the commencement of the tug-of-war.  They are then carried away on the platforms and the challenge begins!  As of the 1998 Tsunahiki, the score stands at East: 7, West: 7, and 9 ties.

  images/tsunahiki-2.JPG

(Naha Tsunahiki, October 10, 1998)  The smaller ropes you see extending from the main rope is what people would grab on to during the tug-of-war.  People are positioned on both sides down the length of the rope.  The man you see pictured above standing on the rope was one of the many "cheerleaders" who would help to unite the efforts of their side with their "Hai-ya" shouts to ensure that everyone on their end was pulling in time with each other.  Despite their coaching, our group (West) would often pull against each other, rocking the rope, nearly knocking these men from their post on top of the giant rope.  I found it quite comical until we started losing.  Needless to say, the united efforts of the East side won this year, bringing the score to a tie again.  Despite the fact that we pulled for the side that won Second Place, we still had an awesome time. 

"Yoisho!" "O-shoi!  Hai-yaaah!" pick your Okinawan variation of the old familar "heave-ho!", but whatever you do, just make sure you’re pulling as hard as you can.  It takes some
chikara(strength) to move that 40 ton rope, especially when you have 25,000 of your friends and neighbors pulling against you on the other side.  They estimate that approximately 50,000 people participate in the Tsunahiki each year. 

 

The Tsunahiki is a big festive event that is held each year.  Pictured here is the golden ball that is hoisted above the center knot of the rope.  Filled with confetti and balloons, it is released to signal the beginning of the tug-of-war. 

 

0Here you see me pictured after the event.  We pulled and pulled for a half an hour, our team came in first runner up(nevermind that there were only 2 sides in this competition!).  After the festivities, the rope is hacked to pieces for spectators and participants to take home as souvenirs.  My travel companion, Myron, brought along his handy-dandy pocket knives, but those tiny blades were no match for that huge rope (although with a lot of sweat and elbow grease, he did manage to cut off that bunch you see in my arms.)  The large piece you see draped around my neck was courtesy of a guy with a large saw and the help of a few marines.  Having a piece of the rope is said to be good luck, and upon my return home, I passed around some good fortune direct from Okinawa to friends and family.

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