Photo/IllutrationParticipants in the "kibasen" event try to grab the hats of the opposing team's players riding piggyback. (Ryuichi Yamashita)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

TONAKI, Okinawa Prefecture--The tiny island of Tonakijima holds perhaps the most popular “undokai” sports festival in Japan.

While parents elsewhere might avoid their children’s events because of the scorching heat, all participants on this island about 60 kilometers west of the main Okinawa island can cool off during the actual activities.

That’s because all events, from the obstacle course race to tossing balls into a net, are held in the ocean.

The sports festival has been designed to bring all islanders together. And even those who have left the island for study or work often come back for the annual event, which started in 1919.

The event on July 15 was the 100th for the island because the sports festival was canceled four times during World War II.

The island had a population of 377 as of the end of May. However, 500 people showed up for the sports festival.

Among them were 28 kindergartners and elementary and junior high school students. The island has no high school, so graduates of the junior high school leave the island.

The festival was concluded, as is the tradition, with a tug-of-war involving all islanders.