Pulling Big Straw Bag as strange new-year festival of Aizu-Bange town

On January 14, 2018, I went to Aizu-Bange town, located in Aizu region, Fukushima prefecture,  to see Hatsu-ichi (the First Market) and a strange traditional local festival named the Pulling Big Straw Bag.

In Aizu-Bange, the First Market is held on January 14 every year and the Pulling Big Straw Bag is done together with this First Market.

The Aizu-Bange town itself calls this Pulling Big Straw Bag as a strange festival. Put a big straw bag with a weight of 5 tons in the middle, divided into the east and the west, and draws a large tail like a tug of war.

First of all, for children to participate. The size of the bales is 1 ton, the boys are naked in the upper body.

After children's part, it is an adult's part. First, the exorcism on 5 tons big straw bag.

Next, 147 bare participants who are divided to the East (red) and the West (white) with their loincloths appeared, and get exorcism. Participants are not only local people, nationwide, but also from other countries (you can register as general participant by online around in every November).

Because it was very cold and snowing, many participants were already warming their body with drinking alcohol.

Move the big straw bag and set it in the middle of the road. On top of the big straw bag, the Mayor was in the east, and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the west, while a referee stood between them.

The event begins with the voice of "Start to pull !", and, it is the end with "Stop to pull !"

The East won the first time. The second win was the West. And, before moving to the third match, name of all participants were read one by one.

And the third match. The West won after long battle that takes more than one minute. With this, the West of 2 wins and 1 loss has became the winner of this year.

In this event, it is said that rice will become a rich harvest this year if the West win, and it is said that the price of rice will rise if the East win. So, this year, rice will become rich by the win of the West.

After finished the match, still another session. This time, anyone including onlookers can participate for this event. Pulling this big straw bag is believed to attract good luck and fortune, so a lot of people participated.

Every year, this event is reported as a new year's annual event in TV and newspaper in Fukushima Prefecture.

In cold weather, the participants, in nakedness in the cold weather, moved to hot spring facilities in the town to warm up the body,and at night continue to enjoy the grand party with alcohol again.