Tado Horse Festival

Another annual event was run today. Essentially, they run a drunken youth rider, on a drunken horse, up a drunken mountain (and over a mound). If the horse and rider make it over (preferably together), then that heralds a good rice harvest this season.

In previous years, animal rights groups and the Mie Prefecture Board of Education (concerning especially youth affairs) have complained about this event. Horses are forced to consume alcohol, and the youth who ride them are about 17 years of age, and are drunk themselves. Horses are forced to run over a mound at the top of a steep slope, and there is a risk the horses could get hurt. Often the horses are frightened by the 120,000 spectators cheering the horse and rider on. At the mound that rider’s team try to help or force the horse over by pushing and pulling on the horse. Whilst there is risk to the horse, there are perhaps more risk to the people who have been carried or rushed to hospital in previous years. Furthermore, the animal rights group (I haven’t been able to attain their exact name yet) and the Education Board seem not to be so concerned for long standing cultural rights and traditions.

In any case, it seemed that this year the horse was not frothing at the mouth from too much sake, and the riders didn’t seem drunk at all. The teams standing either side of the track didn’t seem very drunk either. It appears that the fizz had been drained this year; perhaps creating a threat to the sense of community surrounding this event? Time will tell.

News: This year the mound at the top of the slope didn’t appear to have been broken very well, and so it was, as one person put it: ‘ambitious’. On this first day, most horses failed, but only one horse made it over, so there should be a good harvest this year. The horse that made it over was called Ganbare Tohoku (roughly translated as ‘keep trying / keep striving Tohoku’, a reference and call of encouragement to the people of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear stricken region).

For photos taken in previous years, see my Asia Photo Connection and PhotoShelter portfolios. This year I used black and white film (as I’m getting tired of digital), so new photos will be added to this post and my portfolios later.

Tado Horse Festival – Images by Andrew Blyth

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