Takeuchi Festival

Takeuchi Festival
The Takeuchi Festival (Takeuchi Matsuri) is held every February in the former town of Rokugo (now part of Misato), Japan. It is considered to be one of the world’s most dangerous festivals. Its roots go back to traditional festivals held in order to celebrate the beginning of Lunar New Year.

The Takeuchi Festival is also known as the Bamboo Battle. Every year on February 15, after downing several rounds of sake, 200 local men are divided into two opposing teams – Team North and Team South. All participants are equipped with 20-foot long bamboo poles which they use to hit members of the opposing team. Most wear padding and helmets for protection.

The Bamboo Battle is half war game and half street brawl. It consists of three rounds. During the first two rounds, fighters simply thwack members of the opposing team with their poles, often causing welts and cuts. These rounds are poles only, each lasts for three minutes. Before the third round, the poles are set on fire and the battle becomes even more dangerous. Eventually, the fight turns into pure mayhem, as inebriated participants forget about tradition, abandon their poles altogether and turn the battle into a good old fashioned fist fight.

The origins of these tradition are unclear, but the Takeuchi Festival is believed to have a symbolic meaning. Locals believe that the victory of Team North promises a good harvest of rice. If Team South wins, the price of rice will grow up.

Although most fighters wear protection, the festival is quite dangerous, so there is always an ambulance on hand to deal with any injuries, which inevitably occur each year. Police officers are present to make sure the situation doesn’t get out of hand. They are ready to intervene and settle things down in case some fighters are reluctant to stop battling.

Takeuchi Festival

Photo: Chris Lewis




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