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Shioya Ungami Sea Festival, Ogimi, Okinawa

Yesterday, Shioya Ungami was held in Shioya Bay on the north west coast of the main island of Okinawa. Shioya is part of Ogimi village which is famous for having one of the longest living populations in the world.

Shioya Ungami Sea Festival an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties of Japan, Shioya Bay, Ogimi Village, Okinawa

Shioya Ungami Sea Festival, an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan, Shioya Bay, Ogimi Village, Okinawa

The festival begins with prayers and then the men of the village race dragon boats across the bay. The only woman in the boat is a yuta which is a local priestess. When the dragon boat arrived at the beach, the yuta was carried across the water so she didn’t get her feet and clothes wet.

Shioya Ungami Sea Festival an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties of Japan, Shioya Bay, Ogimi Village, Okinawa

Shioya Ungami Sea Festival, an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan, Shioya Bay, Ogimi Village, Okinawa

Many of the ladies and girls of the village wade into the water to sing and bang drums as encouragement for the dragon boat racers. They also stopped and prayed after the arrival of the first set of boats.

Shioya Ungami Sea Festival an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties of Japan, Shioya Bay, Ogimi Village, Okinawa

Shioya Ungami Sea Festival, an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan, Shioya Bay, Ogimi Village, Okinawa

The boats then raced back across the bay again as the ladies sang and waved.

Shioya Ungami Sea Festival an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties of Japan, Shioya Bay, Ogimi Village, Okinawa

Shioya Ungami Sea Festival, an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan, Shioya Bay, Ogimi Village, Okinawa

After the races the singing and dancing continued. Many of those laughing and bounding around were in their seventies and eighties. Many of the spectators were even older.

Shioya Ungami Sea Festival an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties of Japan, Shioya Bay, Ogimi Village, Okinawa

Shioya Ungami Sea Festival, an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan, Shioya Bay, Ogimi Village, Okinawa

The soaked clothing, towels, and straw crowns  were hung out to dry on the stone walls of the village.

Shioya Ungami Sea Festival an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties of Japan, Shioya Bay, Ogimi Village, Okinawa

Shioya Ungami Sea Festival, an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan, Shioya Bay, Ogimi Village, Okinawa

There are many reasons why the people of Ogimi have such long lives, but one is community spirit. Ungami is such a positive, happy event for everyone young and old. Their lives are not just long, but also filled with dancing, singing and laughter. The world has much to learn from this tiny Okinawan village.

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