Have you ever seen a bullfight with no matador and no weapons? Well, this is possible in Japan’s southern island of Okinawa. There are around 40 bullfighting tournaments held every year which attract thousands of visitors around the world. However, don’t be misled as bullfights in Okinawa do not create bloodshed but simply a fight of two bulls in 10 bouts.
In the 17th century, bullfighting became a past time for farmers in the Ryukyu Islands. It became very popular that many people started participating in it. Okinawan bullfighting is considered tame in comparison to Mexican, Spanish or Portuguese bullfighting as it is more similar to sumo wrestling for bulls.
It is very important to consider not harming the bulls and before the fight, each of the bulls is guided by their coach before locking horns and trying to shove each other. The match is considered over when one bull withdraws or relents. Whenever a bull gets hurt, the contest is stopped in order to give emergency medical care for the animal.
The bullfighting event has around 600 bulls participating coming from different places across the country. It is said that bulls have their debut at age 3 or 4 years then start fighting at age 6 to 8 years. Normally, the bull’s proximal weight is one ton and they retire fighting at the age of 10 years. Nowadays, matches are being held in places which can seat 3,000 spectators such as the Multipurpose Dome in Uruma City. The cost of attending the fight depends on the kind of tournament ranging from 2,500 to 3,000 yen.
Before matches begin, some traditional dances are performed to the tune of drums, whistles and chants. A salt display is also placed in the arena to ward off evil spirits.
Due to the bloodless nature of the Okinawa Bullfights, it is definitely a must-watch for enthusiasts!
Check out the Okinawa Island Guide website for more details.