Tag Archive for tado

POTW: 7th May Tado Horse Festival

This Photo of the Week is from the Tado Horse Festival. I’ve written about this before, but the summary is that the event is hundreds of years old, and if the horse gets over a mound of earth atop a hill then there will be a good rice harvest later in the year. Following the festival the local farmers can begin to plant their rice. And there’s always a catch, the horse, rider, and the hill all have to be appropriately inebriated with sake. More details can be found in previous posts, and this time I provide more info than what is on Wikipedia/Tado_Festival. See the Tado Horse Festival gallery for more images.

Tado Horse Festival

The basics:

A drunken rider takes a drunken horse up a drunken hill. If they make it up and over a mound, then this heralds a good rice harvest later in the year. After the event the local farmers can begin planting their rice. About 120,000 people annually go to see this event, which dates back hundreds of years (I don’t know how many, I’m afraid). Local animal rights groups complain about the event and the stress it causes to the horses, and the participation of school-aged teenagers as well. The event has changed some features, including lowering the height of the mound / obstacle on top of the hill, and reducing the amount of alcohol the horses (and riders) are given. I’m not sure of the details, but it seems that this year the main change was the quantity of alcohol, but the mound seems be about the same as usual (though last years was low). Images will be added to this Tado Horse Festival portfolio in the coming days.

The mound atop the hill is broken to make it easier for the horse to get over.

A horse running up to the mound. The horse gets about a 100 meter run up.

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

Coming up this Spring

Coming up this Spring are a few important things. Firstly, a 10% discount for all purchases at my PhotoShelter portfolio with a minimum USD$25 purchase, unlimited use, until 30th March, 2011. Coupon code is: SUPERSPRING.

Secondly, the Spring Sumo tournament in Osaka has been cancelled due to match fixing allegations. It is the first time sumo had been cancelled since 1946, which itself was cancelled due to renovations to the Tokyo sumo venue. Here are my galleries, all eligible for the Spring 10% discount: Top wrestler, Hakuho, Sumo Spills, and general Japanese Sumo.

Thirdly, the Tado Horse Festival, is a Shinto religious festival intended to bring a good harvest for this coming growing season. If a horse can make it up the steep slope and over a mound-obstacle, then a good harvest is expected. Only after the event do the local farms begin sowing. The 10% Spring discount also applies to this PhotoShelter gallery.

That’s pretty much the main events that are coming up this Spring.

Tado Horse Festival

Phew! What a day. I felt like I was in the army today, “hurry up and wait”, and a lot of standing. As I type this, I’m cooling off with a can of Suntory Premium beer. It was the sort of day that was the end of spring, but people’s wardrobes had not kept up. There was a guy who chose to wear a knitted beanie; I’m sure you could call it a ‘seasonal-wardrobe miscalculation’.


The Tado horse festival is an annual religious event held at a Shinto Shrine. The basics are that a drunken horse is ridden up a drunken steep slope by a drunken rider. Seriously, they get the horse drunk, the rider is drunk, and they splash copious amounts of sake (Japanese rice wine-like alcohol) on the slope and obstacle. If the horse and rider make it over the slope, then that heralds a good rice harvest later in the year.

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Religious preparations:

Accurate information on this event is hard to gather, as each person can tell you a fragment of what they know of this event, and sometimes these fragments contradict what other people have said. But from what I think I can reliably gather is this. For a couple of weeks before the event, the riders are kept in a kind of religious quarantine. They are fed traditional food, partake in specialised religious ceremonies, and are taken care of before the event. Everything is provided for them, and everything they need is given to them. Even during the event, it appears their feet are not permitted to touch the ground and so the riders need to be carried either by horse or by human, otherwise they are permitted to stand on tatami mats or rocks.

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What happens:

The slope is rather steep, and has an added mound-obstacle at the top with a bamboo pole sticking out. At about midday the mound is ceremoniously broken making a small gap for horse and rider to attempt their climb over. The horse is raced down a long straight gaining momentum that should assist it to get up and over the mound. For each horse and rider, there is a dedicated team of mostly young (brave) men who stand in file either-side of the path to guide the horse to the break in the mound and help the horse and rider over. As you’re probably beginning to imagine, it is dangerous. Last year I saw a guy carried away on a stretcher with blood coming from his head. No blood this year, but there were several casualties taken away by ambulance. There was a dedicated doctor on site who did need to attend to a few people.

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The event today drew a crowd of approximately 100,000 people. The Tado Horse Festival often attracts crowds of about 80,000 to 90,000 people over the Tuesday and Wednesday of the Golden Week holiday at the start of May.



Animal rights groups do campaign against this event, as horses can get injured (and possibly later put down), and the horses are made drunk for this event. However, this event is far, far older than the notion of animal rights. The owners of the horses attend the event, and the horses are probably re-used and needed for the second day of the event. There are apparently other similar events in Japan which reportedly have as a compromise lowered the mound to make it easier and less risky for horses. Furthermore, why should animal rights groups call for the cancellation of a centuries all event? To demand an end to such a cultural event in any Asian country, by those influenced by Western values would seem a little culturally-imperialistic. Moral relativists would be saddened to see a cultural event cancelled to please a few people, but would rather let the Japanese decide for themselves what is appropriate for their culture. There are opposing views of this event, and they all have valid arguments, as you can see. So, what’s my position really? I cannot pass judgement.

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How to get there:

From Nagoya Station, take the Kintetsu Express train to Kuwana Station (about 30 minutes) with a ¥440 ticket. On the same platform you get off at, is a connection to the Yoro Tetsu train company. There will be a little table there selling tickets (specifiy “return”) for about ¥310. From that Kuwana platform to the Tado station, it will take about approximately 13 minutes. Just follow the crowd for a 10 to 15 minute walk up the gentle slope through the town and along the river. Ticket prices may be updated without notice. Check Hyperdia.Com for train times and prices.

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These images are available at both Asia Photo Connection (aka Henry Westheim), and my portfolio at PhotoShelter > Tado Horse Festival.

Tado Gagaku

A few weeks ago I saw a wonderful performance. Tado Gagaku is a traditional Shinto-related performance troupe. They have both actor-dancers and musicians. The Tado Gagaku performs two or three times a year. This time, they performed at Kuwana Mansion, known locally as Roka-En (Roka Park).The performances are done outdoors on a temporary stage. On this particular day, it was cold, rain threatened, miserable, and the lighting was less than par. But, the people were really nice. I was fortunate enough to get some model releases. A performer of Tado Gaku

There are several performances done in the course of two hours. Some are solo performances, some were group performances, in some the performers wore masks, but they all wore wonderful costumes. The musicians played all Japanese court instruments.

All images are available at Asia PhotoConnection / Henry Westheim.

A performer of Tado Gaku playing the sho (cheng)