EHIME, July 9 ― Doronko Matsuri (mud festival) was held on July 2, 2017, at Mishima Shrine in Shirokawa, Seiyo, Ehime Prefecture, as an annual event to appreciate the hard work of farmers who have finished rice planting and to pray for good harvesting of the year. The holy performance included a demonstration of traditional Ushi-no-shirokaki (plowing by bulls) by local farmers in the rice paddy that belongs to the shrine. Another highlight of the festival that thoroughly excited the visitors was the comical demonstration of farm works by young local villagers in the muddy field.
The festival is held on the first Sunday of July every year. It began with the ritual, followed by the demonstration of seven black bulls which were led into the 9-are rice paddy by seven bull handlers. The bulls with old-fashioned wooden plows and the handlers lined up orderly and tilled the land powerfully.
The bulls were raised by one of the few local bull raisers, Katsuhisa Sakura, 72, and repeatedly trained by the handlers. Masao Shuto, 55, has been a bull handler for 21 years by now. “It’s not how strong I pull the string, but how I pull the string and how I talked to them,” he said.
What came after the bull performance was Aze-mame-ue (bean planting) by four young locals, which ended up with an epic comical fighting that excited the entire audience.
The last performance of the festival was given by 19 Saotome female rice planters who danced in a circle and demonstrated rice planting with young rice plants of mochiminori variety to end the entire festival.
The mud festival with a history of approximately 140 years was initially originated as a rice planting festival by settlers from Uwajima region. It’s called Oku-Iyo-no-kisai (comic festival deep in the Iyo Mountains) and was designated as an intangible folk cultural asset in 2000. The audience this year amounted to 4,000, fur exceeding 500 of the previous year.