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Dragon boat race heralds start of summer in western Japan

Rowers in a dragon boat race in Aioi Bay are seen paddling in Aioi, Hyogo Prefecture, on May 26, 2019. (Mainichi/Naohiro Yamada)

AIOI, Hyogo -- Rowing crews descended upon Aioi Bay here on May 26 to participate in the annual dragon boat race to announce the start of summer.

An audience of around 40,000 people watched the teams charge across the water to the rhythm of drums on board the vessels. The event started in the Taisho era (1912-1926) when the custom was brought over from Nagasaki in western Japan. This year some 65 teams, comprising about 3,000 participants in total, from prefectures including Nagasaki and Hyogo took to boats to compete on the straight 300-meter course. The vessels measure 13 meters long, with each accommodating 32 team members.

Teams competing in a dragon boat race are seen here in Aioi, Hyogo Prefecture, on May 26, 2019. (Mainichi/Naohiro Yamada)

The Japanese archipelago has experienced an unprecedentedly hot May, with sweltering temperatures recorded even in parts of the typically colder northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido. In the midst of the intense contest in Aioi Bay, one participant said that rowers would wipe away the heat with the water splashed up by their oars.

(Japanese original by Naohiro Yamada, Osaka Photo Group)

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