Friday, September 3, 2010


Originally uploaded by graffkeith
The Ungami, sometimes pronounced "Unjami," Matsuri or festival is held each August in tiny Shioya, part of the Ogimi Village governmental unit along Okinawa's northwestern coast.

Shioya is a beautiful little fishing village with a large back bay. This protected bay offers the locals a unique opportunity to hold boat races in traditional "sabani" boats, often used for "Hari" or dragon boat races. It is also one of the premire sites in Japan for sculling.

The festival is noted for it's prayer rituals. Prayers are primarily the duty of the women and every other year, they hold special "Women Only" prayer vigils in sacred groves.

But each and every year the festival is climaxed with a traditional Hari race. Unlike othher Hari races in Okinawa, in Shioya, at the finish line, the women will don traditional garb and enter the water to bang drums, dance and cheer on their favorite team of racers.

At one of the three sub-villages that make up Shioya village, the locals perform a ceremony and bless the boats with Okinawan Awamori Sake. In this picture they are launching the smaller of two boats. This one will be manned by the younger men and boys of the village and raced against by the other two sub-village teams.

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