Okinawans have been dragon boat racing (Hari) for around 600 years. The king’s little brother went to Nanjing in China for studies and there he saw the Chinese compete in dragon boats. He brought this back to Okinawa and they starting having similar races in the river next to Tomigusuku Castle. Since then the trend spread and now there are dragon boat races all over the island, with the biggest one in Naha which has a history of about 40 years.
Naha Hari is during Golden Week, a national holiday in the beginning of May, and the festival is for three days. Each neighborhood have their own fiberglass boat and team consisting of 32 rowers, 2 bellringers, 2 helmsmen and 6 other crewmen, and the more serious ones start practicing several months before the actual race. They race on the first and the third day, while the second day is for the audience to try to ride the boats.
If you are interested in watching Naha Hari, then go to Naha Wharf. Once you get close you can’t miss it, since it attracts more than 200.000 visitors annually. There are many shops and stands selling food, drinks and souvenirs, as well as games for both young and old kids. There are also concerts by local bands playing every day and the Okinawa Sumo Tournament is on the first day. At the end of each day they have a fireworks show. If you want to know when Naha Hari is, just look up Golden Week in Japan and it will be during those three days.
Naha Wharf is located just next to Akebono in the western part of Naha. Even though it is quite central, I suggest you don’t take the car there since there are no parking lots, and there are a lot of police patrolling the area checking so no one is parking next to the road. So the best way is to take a cab or the bus. You can take bus 101 from Naha Bus Terminal to “Soukou-mae”. Go south and it will be on your right side. Pictures: © Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau
Naha Hari 那覇ハーリー（なはハーリー）
Tomigusuku Castle 豊見城城（なかぐすくじょう）
Golden Week ゴルデンウィーク
Naha Wharf 那覇港（なはみなと）
Key phrases to show taxi drivers:
How much is it to Naha Hari? 那覇ハーリーまでいくらですか？
How long time does it take to Naha Hari? 那覇ハーリーまでどのぐらいの時間がかかりますか？