Ball-Catching Festival

Ball-Catching Festival (Tamaseseri)

January 3
Each year on January 3, two teams of Japanese men wearing only loincloths compete for a ball that weighs about 18 pounds and measures about 12 inches in diameter. It is believed that whoever can raise the ball above his or her head will have good fortune. Because they also believe that merely touching the ball brings good luck, spectators also enter the fray of the competition. Throughout the struggle, the competitors are continuously splashed with cold water, which also soaks the crowd watching the spectacle in cold winter air.
The two ball-catching teams consist of the Land Team, made up of farmers who work the fields, and the Sea team, composed of fisherman. They believe that the size of the harvest or of the catch during the New Year is determined by which team wins the ball and gives it to a waiting Shinto priest—with the winning team bound for the greater yield. A 500-year-old tradition, the ball-catching festival is said to have its roots in the legend of the dragon god (ryujin) offering two balls to the Empress Jingu (170-269). It takes place at Hakozaki Shrine City, Higashi-ku,Fukuoka City, Japan. It is one of the three main festivals of Kyushu, the southernmost of the four main islands that make up Japan.
CONTACTS:
Japan National Tourist Organization
515 S. Figueroa St., Ste. 1470
Los Angeles, CA 90071
213-623-1952; fax: 213-623-6301
www.jnto.go.jp/eng/index.html