While millions around the world prepare to get romantic with Valentine’s Day, the folks over in Rokugo in Japan’s Akita Prefecture, are gearing up for something a little different. Each year on February 15th, the day after Valentine’s Day, the residents of Rokugo enjoy some sake and get ready for Takeuchi Matsuri – also known as the “Stick Beating Festival.”
Hundreds gather for what sounds like a twisted version of Groundhog Day; a battle between “North” and “South”, except this isn’t about weather – it’s about food. If the North wins then there will be a good harvest. If the South wins then the price of rice will go up.
The battle is played out by around 200 men, all equipped with 40 foot long bamboo poles. Three vicious rounds see the gents thwacking and pummeling each other. The first two rounds are “poles only” and last for 3 minutes each. The third round involves a bonfire and dipping your pole into it before fighting some more. Before long the poles are abandoned all together and the affair turns into a good old fashioned fist fight with deserters being dragged back in for more fun. While it sounds very dangerous (and it IS), most people wear padding and helmets – or at least are supposed to.
Takeuchi Matsuri isn’t the only festival in Japan that utilizes bamboo poles (remember the Nada no Kenka Matsuri?) Neither is it the only popular world fighting festival, though it does seem a tad more dangerous than the Peruvian Fighting Festival.
Have you been to Takeuchi Matsuri? Share your story with us!
When: February 15th, annually
Where: Rokugo, Akita Prefecture, Japan