【News】 Seppetobe agricultural festival: young men dance in muddy paddy field to pray for huge harvest (Hioki-shi, Kagoshima Prefecture) (June 12, 2016)


Young men dancing, singing and mixing mud using their feet in order to pray for huge harvest(in Hioki-shi, Kagoshima Prefecture)

Young men dancing, singing and mixing mud using their feet in order to pray for huge harvest(in Hioki-shi, Kagoshima Prefecture)

Wooden ornament placed on the top of the bamboo rod is called shibe. After the festival, the shibe is removed from the pole and each family gets one piece of the shibe as a charm to drive away evils.

Wooden ornament placed on the top of the bamboo rod is called shibe. After the festival, the shibe is removed from the pole and each family gets one piece of the shibe as a charm to drive away evils.

Deodon, the local god, quietly watches as the festival continues. It parades down to the paddy field, pulled by local children.

Deodon, the local god, quietly watches as the festival continues. It parades down to the paddy field, pulled by local children.

On the first Sunday of June every year in Hioki-shi, Kagoshima Prefecture, there is an exciting rice planting festival called Seppetobe. Seppetobe means “leap as high as possible” in the Kagoshima local dialect. Young men in white costumes jump in a paddy field, which is covered with mud, to pray for the productiveness of the year.

The young men from some groups according to the districts they live and compete how well a man from each group can carry a long bamboo rod from one

A man carrying a pole with shibe across the rice field. His group mates rush to support him when the rod moves around.

A man carrying a pole with shibe across the rice field. His group mates rush to support him when the rod moves around.

corner to another for about 50 meters without tipping it over. A large figure of about 3 meters tall called deodon (meaning the great king in the dialect) sits at one corner of the paddy field, observing as the festival continues. The bamboos are so long and bow easily, making it very difficult for a man to control their balance. Each time they bow, there was a stir in the audience.

The rice planting festival is said to have a history of over 400 years. Most of the Seppetobe dancers are local young men in their 20s or older. They stamp their feet and mix the mud in order to plow and kill insect pests in the field and the bamboo rod represents a rice stalk, according to local legend.

When the festival is over, it’s time for the locals to start rice planting.

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