One event where you can clearly see the influence of Chinese culture in Nagasaki City is during the annual Nagasaki Peiron Boat Races. The 359-year-old event was started by the Chinese people residing in the city as a way of offering prayers to the sea god.
In 1655, a severe storm struck Nagasaki Harbor sinking the Chinese vessels that were docked there. The Chinese locals borrowed boats and began racing them to appease the angry sea god. The boat races reached their pinnacle between 1603 and 1868. During that time, the race boats ranged in size from 65 feet to 148 feet. Today, the race boats are only 46 feet long and carry a team of 33 rowers.
Spurred on by taiko drums and gongs, the rowers propel the boats using 3 foot oars along a course that measures approximately 3,773 feet roundtrip. The Peiron Boat Races are held every year on the last weekend in July at the Matsugae Kokusai Kanko Futo Pier of Nagasaki Port. Various teams assemble from all over Japan to compete and include middle school students, workplace teams and even all girl teams.
As with all festivals in Japan, an array of food vendors are available and at the end of each day, there is a fireworks display.
The Matsugae Kokusai Kanko Futo Pier of Nagasaki Port is accessible via the JR Nagasaki Line. Exit at Nagasaki Station and take the municipal streetcar to Oura Tenshudo. The port is just 2 minutes away on foot from that point.
For additional information contact: Tourist Information Center of the Japan National Tourist Organization. (10th floor, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan Bldg., 2-10-1, Yurakucho, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo; (03) 3201-3331).