Dragon boat racing Okinawa-style

Every May and June, the tropical waters of Okinawa welcome a series of dragon boat races known as hari or hare. They’re steeped in history, full of atmosphere and reserve a number of surprises for the uninitiated!

One of the oldest – and most spectacular – is Itoman Hare. Like many hari, it is held on the fourth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar (May 29th in 2017). The festival started over 500 years ago as a way to pray for safe sailing and good catches and, today, competitors still race in age-old fishing boats called sabani.

While the centrepiece is a 1.3-mile race between teams from three fishing villages, there are plenty of activities throughout the day. The most spectacular race? The Kunnukase, which involves crews deliberately capsizing their boat mid-race, clambering back in to bail out water and then paddling home as fast as possible! The wackiest? A duck-hunting race where participants dive into the water to capture the 30 ducks (and balls) released by the organizers. Anyone can take part and win prizes.

Other hari include the popular Naha Hari (May 3-5). This spectacular three-day dragon boat fiesta takes place during Golden Week and features concerts, sumo wrestling and fireworks aplenty.

It may be too late to catch a hari in 2017, but it’s not too early to start planning for next year. Several smaller races are held in the Yaeyama Islands, home to HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island. After the excitement of dragon boat racing, where better to unwind than on this small island, with your feet in the sand and stunning views of the ocean?

(image copyrights courtesy Banner image on top : Hillel Wright / Japan Times – Boats with team : Okinawaclip  – Black team with yellow lady : Copyrights 5thAF )

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Take our Private Immersive Tour to Discover HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island in Okinawa

Just a fifteen-minute boat ride from the Ishigaki ferry terminal will carry you to Taketomi Island. The hotel’s shuttle will greet you from the moment you step off the ship. The main road quickly gives way to a narrow, mysterious path that may disorient you, but be patient. Your destination will soon become clear…

Japanese luxury Taketomijima Ryokan

After a few hundred metres, the shuttle takes a right turn onto the path leading to HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island. At first you will not see much more than two rooftops covered in thick red tile. After checking in at the hotel lobby, you will follow your guide to your villa, surrounded by your very own paradise on earth, a place where time stands still.

Veranda design in Japanese style on Taketomijima

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You will first be impressed by the tranquillity and authenticity of this village of 48 villas that are built just like the typical houses on the island, conferring HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island its charm. Taketomi Island in Okinawa Prefecture is an unspoilt place, preserved by building no new homes in the past fifty years. Only existing houses remain and are preserved in the local tradition: built of wood with large bay windows and the thick red roof tiles that are so characteristic of the island.

Luxury Japanese bathroom

While the villas are identical, you will have a choice between two styles of interior design. The first is traditional, in the style of ryokans, with their tatami-covered floors and futon beds, whereas the second is more Western with a shower, bathtub, modern beds, and tatamis only in the bedrooms. Regardless of your choice, each villa is decorated with the sophistication and clean lines characteristic of Japanese style, with dark wood furniture and couches inviting you to total relaxation.

Wander the small winding alleys of this charming village, breathe in the pure air and absorb its unique atmosphere. Take a look around, lift your eyes and you will meet Shisa. This ubiquitous figure will catch your eye immediately. The miniature lion’s menacing demeanour is not intended to scare you, but to protect you by warding off evil spirits.

Swimming pool on Taketomi Island

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The viewing point on the heights of the Resort is the perfect place for summer traditional fireworks contemplation. You will be surrounded by the village on one side and the ocean on the other. You can swim laps or splash around with your children in the huge swimming pool that is almost as large as an Olympic pool, or simply lie down and relax in one of its shallow ends as the water caresses your skin. You will also appreciate the privacy afforded by the pretty blooming bushes surrounding the pool.

French cuisine in Japan

You can relax in the lounge next to the swimming pool, which offers hot drinks, refreshments and all kinds of snacks around the clock. This living space also offers a variety of workshops and entertainment. The Resort takes pride in supporting local craftsmanship.

Sanshin Japanese instrument

Guests can try their hand at artisanal crafts such as wickerwork, or enjoy a daily music and song show during which a local musician will introduce you to the traditional instrument from Okinawa, the sanshin, which resembles a 3-string banjo.

French gastronomy by Tatsurou Nakasu

HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island offers a wide variety of activities to make your stay a rich and fulfilling one. At the end of the day, you can watch the sunset on the eastern coast of the island, which magically transforms the beach into an otherworldly landscape. Afterwards, savour your dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.

The chef, Tatsuo Nakasu is prodigious, creating dishes à la française from local products. His bamboo shoots dish with abalones and garlic butter is an homage to Burgundy cuisine. Each of his dishes, from appetizers to dessert artfully combines finesse and balance. Complete your meal with one of the wines on the menu. The kind attentions of the service staff will make your stay an exceptional experience.