About the Yonabaru Ootsunahiki
The Yonabaru Ootsunahiki has more than 440 years of history. The beginnings of the Yonabaru Ootsunahiki date back to King Shouei in the 1500s. According to “The Yonabaru Folktales”, one year, the rice crop was very small due to insects. The famine was so bad that the people were starving to death. The head of the Yonabaru village went to ask an elderly woman for advice. She told him, “Gather weeds from the hills and fields and burn them. Then, fashion a giant rope and gather everyone to pull on this rope from both sides and ring bells, beat drums all the while shouting with all your heart”. Everyone in the village followed her advice and to the surprise of all, the insects disappeared!
And so, the Yonabaru Ootsunahiki tradition began as a prayer for a rich harvest as a religious service. When the Yonabaru Ootsunahiki happens, Yonabaru town is divided into two, the eastern team and the western team. The connecting of the eastern rope and the western rope signifies the celebration is about to begin. Whether there will be a rich harvest or not this year is decided by victory or defeat.Ootsunahiki used to be celebrated, after praying for a rich harvest and good health for the people of Yonabaru at the Uganju, on June 26th according to the old Japanese calender. However, it is now held any Sunday after June 26th, because it is now more of a draw for tourists and the overall decline of farming.The Yonabaru Ootsunahiki is a well known tradition and symbol of Yonabaru. It draws in many fans of the tsunahiki.
The Yonabaru Ootsunahiki is one of three Okinawa Ootsunahiki celebrations along with Naha and Itoman, though Yonabaru’s rope is famous for being the most gorgeous and strongest. The Yonabaru Ootsunahiki starts by putting the Shitaku (youth) on top of the rope. There is no interuption to the the tsunahiki competition once the Shitaku begin riding on the rope. These opening preparations are a characteristic of the Yonabaru tsunahiki and differ from the other two Ootsunahiki.
The Yonabaru Ootsunahiki starts by; １．Shitaku (the youth) ride on top of the rope. ２．Get in position to lift the rope up with Katsugi- bo (support staffs), signaled by a person in charge of the rope.
３．Lift the rope up while shouting “Saa”, signaled with the sound of bells and drums.
４．Pull both sides of the rope close together and connect them with a long wood log.
５．Set Kanachi-bo to prevent the rope from disconnecting.
６．As soon as the Kanachi-bo are set, the rope is dropped and pulled. The youths on the rope get off and are supposed to pull the support staffs out from under the rope.
It only takes seconds to set up the Kanachi-bo and to start pulling the rope. This sudden and thrilling beginning is the main difference between the other Ootsunahiki and the Yonabaru Ootusnahiki. When people pull the rope, it isn’t dragged. The rope is pulled while moving it in an up and down motion. Also, another characteristic of the Yonabaru celebration is, there is no signal to start pulling the rope. As soon as the two ropes are connected with the Kanachi-bo, it’s a race to start pulling the rope. This is a big competition which happens only once a year. It’s truly an amazing experience and one that everyone should come and be a part of!
The Yonabaru Ootsunahiki also has many events related to the celebration that lead up to the day of the actual Yonabaru Ootsunahiki rope pull. Some events, like offering prayers, are shceduled on the old Japanese calender and other events are scheduled by a comittee.
After 3 months of preparation, May to August, the Yonabaru Ootsunahiki is held. This is, by far, the biggest event of Yonabaru Town.
As well as observation, participation on the day is also possible, so please join us once.