Geographical Review of Japan
Online ISSN : 2185-1727
Print ISSN : 1347-9555
ISSN-L : 1347-9555
Factors in the Continuation of Bullfighting in Uwajima District, Southwestern Japan, with Special Attention to the Actors Involved in a Traditional Event
Nao ISHIKAWA
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2004 Volume 77 Issue 14 Pages 957-976

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Abstract

A number of traditional events have recently been on the verge of extinction in Japan, mainly because of the lack of successors. Fortunately, traditional bullfighting has continued in the Uwajima district of Japan. The purpose of this study is to investigate the reasons why this traditional sport has survived, with special attention to the actors who play important roles in a bullfight. The roles of the ushinushi (bull owner), seko (bull motivator), and hiiki (bull owner's fans) in particular are
analyzed. The three main factors are as follows.
First, the origin of bullfights can be traced to the time they were a source of entertainment for farmers, who used bulls in agriculture from the 18th century to the first half of the 20th century. However, that use has disappeared as a result of the mechanization of agriculture.
Second, bullfighting was revived as a tourist attraction. Organizations of ushinushi began to hold bullfight events. They tried to obtain strong bulls to entertain tourists and competed with each other to gain control of more ushinushi. After such severe competition, only two organizations havesurvived, i. e., one in Uwajima City and the other in the Minami-uwa district. The former prominentlyadvertised bullfights and achieved relative success as a tourist attraction. The latter did not gainnationwide fame, but is known for its local-based show. Although both organizations faced difficulties due to the scarcity of bulls owing to increasing urbanization, it is noteworthy thatpresently they cooperate with each other by exchanging bulls in order to coexist.
Third, the human relationships developed through bullfights play an important role. Newushinushi inherits knowledge on caring for bulls through information exchanges and during practice sessions among actors. Therefore individuals who are not related to the stock-raising industry cankeep a bull irrespective of their job or age. They enjoy not only the fights but also the regularfriendships developed through bullfights. Typically, seko help ushinushi to lead their bulls to victoryby risking their lives. In the process, they develop an intimate relationship through dailycommunication, for example, during the training of bulls and sharing meals. Generally, an ushinushi selects a seko who lives in the same town as a partner. However, presently the partnerships arespread extensively as a result of private exchanges inside and outside the organizations. Hiiki support ushinushi mentally and financially. The ushinushi invite them to post-bullfight parties thatpromote friendship while drinking and discussing the bullfights. The reason for the continuation ofthe bullfights has changed from farmers' need to tourist attractions and organizations that promoterelationships developed among actors.

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