January 14th 2014
The Hamayumi-Sai Festival of Shioji Shrine begins with the shooting of three arrows (yumi) to start off the ceremony. In the early afternoon, the action picks up for the Matobakai, a high-energy event in which men wearing nothing but loincloths in the frigid winter temperatures fight for the possession of a round straw mat, 60cm in diameter and 6kg in weight. The term “bakai” means "to compete" in the local dialect, and the grabbing for the straw mat can get quite competitive, resulting in cold water being splashed on the overheated participants. The men battle over the straw mat as they progress through town, eventuallyending up in the Ariake Sea.
The festival, which has been held for approximately 850 years, is purported to prevent disasters and bring prosperity to the families of participants.
Hours: Starting Time 1:00 p.m.
Airport: Kumamoto Airport
Shioji Shrine, Nagasu Town, Kumamoto Prefecture
Near Nagasu Station, Kumamoto Main Line
Jan. 14, 2014 (third Sunday in January)