The Naha Tug of War

This post was originally published on February 3, 2008. We’re pulling it out of the archives for you to enjoy.  The Naha Tug Of War event will take place on October 9th, 2016 at 3pm; the grand parade kicks off the event at 11:0am. If you go, let us know what you think!

CONTRIBUTED BY HEATHER NORDELL

I want you to close your eyes and imagine the world’s largest tug of war. Imagine a rope so large that they have close down route 58 to have enough room to lay it down. Picture hundreds of hand ropes hanging from the massive main rope. Now imagine throngs of thousands of people on either side helping to pull this rope. Can you picture it?

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If you are struggling to imagine such an event don’t worry – you can attend The Naha Tsunahiki Festival and Tug of War this coming Sunday. According to Wikipedia:

“The Naha Tug of war is an event at the annual festival held in Naha, Okinawa, Japan. Its roots may be traced back to the 1600s. Held on Route 58, it is a battle between the East and West teams. This correlates with the competition between two rulers in the Naha area in days of old.

The event draws some 25,000 attendees annually, and is preceded on the prior day with a parade celebration on Kokusai Street in Naha). In 1997 the event was first logged in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the largest tug-of-war event in the world. The rope weighs some 40 metric tons. It is a truly international event with Japanese nationals, American military, and tourists all in attendance.”

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Sounds fabulous doesn’t it? Well it is and Erin was kind enough to share her experience from last year with us.

“I took the tour through ITT last year to the Naha Tug of War.  I highly recommend taking the bus tour as it is extremely difficult to park.  It takes place on Kokusai Street so before and after the actual event takes place you can meander up and down Kokusai and do some eating and shopping.  I went with my toddler and 11 yr. old by myself and we really enjoyed it.

The crowd is very thick so hold on to little ones. It is easier to attend with older children, but doable with small children who are safely secured in a baby carrier. Bringing a stroller is an option although this could be taxing with the crowd. As you get closer to the rope it gets very compacted…a few men that were on the tour were actually having to coral around the children to keep them from getting pushed down.  If you hang back you can definitely get some breathing room.  My 11 yr. old managed to squeeze in and tug on the rope for a while. This is a definite must do while here on island.  It’s a great cultural experience and something I enjoyed being a part of.  The whole atmosphere with the chanting, drums, ginormous rope and that Okinawan scent we have all learned to love is very surreal.  Be sure to grab a piece of the rope for good luck for the year ahead.”

Check out this YouTube video by the Wandering Waffleheads on what it’s like to be in on the Tug of War action:


Amanda shared a different perspective for those who do not want to take a tour but would rather attend the festival on their own. She also provided me with the beautiful pictures you see through out this post! “If you don’t want to take a tour, simply park at Kinser and take a Cab down to the Tug of War.  It’s really not that far or expensive.  Just remember to go early enough so that you can get down there before they close the road.

We took both our little ones the first year we were here and really enjoyed it. Our boys were 2 and 3. We took a stroller, but didn’t use it much because the kids were so far down they couldn’t see much and the crowds were so close.  Using the stroller did make for a little more room around us, but it was difficult to stay on the sidewalk because of all the vendors.

My husband took our 3yr old with him to tug on the rope and quickly brought him back because the crowd was too close and active.  There is a parade before the tug-o-war and it goes down the street beside the rope.  Because of the stroller we were very close to the parade.

After the tug-o-war, we went eat at a yummy restaurant. It was great because the boys could be a little more active(without the crowd) and then had a place to lay down after all the excitement wore off.  It also alleviated fighting the traffic directly after the contest was over.”

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It is going to be an amazing event and I hope you will take the time to enjoy this annual festival. According to a recent Stars and Stripes article the Tug of War will start around 4pm on Sunday. Please remember that Highway 58 between Kumoji and Izumizaki intersections will be closed from 3pm until 5pm. If you have been before and you have tips on parking, tasty places to eat or anything else please share them with us!

This post was featured in Stripes Okinawa!

25 COMMENTS

    • Yes, October 7th. If you want to take a tour, I would reccomend MCCS Tours+, they get there in PLENTY of time for the Kokusai Street parade. ITT do not!

  1. So I went to the Tug of War on Sunday and got a bunch of rope … what do I do with this rope now? Any ideas? What have other people done with their rope?

  2. My husband recived this info just thought it might help.

    Program for Tug-of-war

    1. Parade on Kokusai street starts at 12pm and finishes at 14:30pm.

    2. NAHA GIANT TUG-OF-WAR (on Route 58)

    15:00pm Traffic is stopped on Route 58.

    15:15pm Ceremony

    15:22pm Competition of the four district flags

    15:27pm Karate show performed by the grand masters of
    Ryukyu Karate

    15:37pm Drum performance (EISA)

    15:45pm 1. Connecting the two ropes (the Female rope
    and the Male rope)

    2. Fix the Kanuchi-pole to ensure the connection between two ropes

    3. Arrangements for Tug-of-war

    4. Opening of the ornamental ball to start the
    celebration

    5. The leader of the East and the West get on the rope and get ready to
    compete (two tunabaru).

    16:11pm Tug-of-war begins

    17:00pm When the siren sounds, the competition is over.

    19:00pm Traffic starts again on Route 58

  3. We went last year and parked in a pay lot off of 58 nearby (maybe a block or two) the Kumoji crossing. It was cheap, and easy to get out of when the tug of war was over.

  4. We want to go to the Naha tug of war, but are new to the island. The ITT tour is booked. Can anyone tell me where to park? Also, what time does the parade start? Does the parade and tug of war all take place on Kokusai Street? Thanks!

  5. Here is some info on this year’s event: http://www.ocvb.or.jp/card/en/0600001264.html

    You could park near one of the monorail stations and ride the monorail down to a stop nearby. You could park on Kinser and get a taxi (the closest base which means the cheapest fare). 58 will be shut down so they can lay out the rope and so the crowds can gather. Most of that area of Naha (if not all of it) will probably be a zoo. You could try for a pay lot off of Kokusai St (which is nearby). No matter what you chose, I’d wear some good walking shoes.

  6. I just came from doing this today and I also highly recommend NOT taking the tour and also found it to be a bit overkill to park far and take a cab or the tram. There is PLENTY of parking nearby. We left for the event around 2:45 p.m. and as we neared Kokusai, we could see that a couple blocks ahead they had blocked 58 off. We turned left and were able to find parking right away that was only about a 5 minute walk from the event. Parking cost us less than 500 yen. We arrived about 3:30 and the rope pulling didn’t start until about 4:30 p.m. Arriving that close to the start time still allowed us to find a place to get in line to pull on the rope. I had my kids 4, and 5 with me and my husband got on the rope and I stayed back with the kids and it was easy to be close enough to see but far away enough to not get trampled. The friends we went with had their 7 and 2 year old and their dad was able to pull the rope with the 7 year old. It was a fabulous experience (a lot of waiting for the pulling but still cool) and if you haven’t made it yet and you have another chance to do it next October, DO IT! P.S. The side we pulled on won, Yes!

  7. A friend and I arrived early for the Eisa fest in the same location thinking it was starting in the morning, parked at a nearby meter, ended up there for about 8 hrs and had a blast checking out the stores, riding the monorail, etc, while waiting for the festival. We left the kids at home, we figured that had seen a bunch of Eisa already so this was for the adults to play! LOL
    Total $8 for parking. Photos and fun…priceless!!! I am hoping to go tomorrow, it’s a toss up between torii fest, this and aquarium, so many choices! thanks for all the info…

  8. Bring gloves if you plan to pull superhard.

    I have been to this 5 times. The tug starts later in the afternoon after the parade up Kokusai street. I highly recommend NOT taking the tour. The parking is easy…have never had a problem finding parking. In fact last year, we showed up minutes before the tug started and parked in a spot that was metered for 100 yen per hour so the whole trip just cost us about 200 yen….it was great.

    Make sure you bring a small knife too if you want to cut some of the rope off at the end. It is tradition to do so and it is supposed to bring you good luck. I cut off a few strands and fix them up nice and send them to family in the States each year.

    Sadly this year, I will not be able to attend since it coincides with Rocktoberfest on Torii Beach….

  9. We are planning on going this year. Whenever a friend of mine and I went a couple of years ago, we parked at the airport and rode the monorail up the Kokusai Street. We arrived a few hours before it was scheduled to start…to get a place close to the road! 🙂

  10. it’s also easy to park near a yui rail stop somewhere else and take the train down there – of course i’m sure it’ll be crowded.

    i’m excited, we’re going for the first time this year!

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