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Official hamaori dishes
Photo: TARUMI Kengo

Hama-ori is an event for gathering shellfish on the shores. On Miyako Island, they also call this Sanitsu, which means “day three” (san’nichi in Japanese.) By the old calendar, people went down to the beach to play and celebrate on the Third Day of the Third Month, which was the day of the first Spring Tide. (Because the old calendar is a lunar one, the ebb and flow of the tides matches the waxing and waning of the moon.) This day is ostensibly for gathering shellfish, but people do not simply pick up mollusks—this day also means celebrating the changing of the seasons by purifying one’s body in the surf. Nowadays, many people take their entire families, but originally, much like the Doll Festival on the mainland, this celebration was intended only for women. The day before Hama-ori, people stew pork, make fūchibā jūshi1—rice cooked with mugwort—and prepare a feast of other celebratory dishes. There’s also a custom of exchanging these dishes with friends and acquaintances, and the morning of, you’ll often see women of all ages—Obā, Anmā, and Nēnē—carrying cloth-wrapped packages all around the village. 

The food is packed up into stacking bento, and people leave their houses around eleven in the morning so that they arrive at the beach just as the tide is going out. Upon arrival, people fly out into the waves three times in succession, rinsing themselves with sea water to purify their bodies (this is called minan ga hana), and then they begin searching for giant clams, octopus, sea urchins, turban snails, and more. Sometimes people also look for fish like irabuchā—parrotfish—who missed the tide. People celebrate and search until about three or four in the afternoon, but if anyone gets too greedy and goes far out into the open sea, they’re put in competition with the returning tide and forced to return to shore.

There’s an expansive lagoon called Yaebishi on the northern part of Miyako Island, so their Sanitsu celebration has really become something else, with people attending by sabani or fishing boats.