Things to do / Traditional festivals

Takada Otawara-hiki

There are many ways to show off your strength: The United States has the World's Strongest Man competition and Finland holds "wife carrying" world championships, just to name a few.

In the district of Takada in Aizumisato, Fukushima Prefecture, the best way to flex your muscles is to take part in the arduous tradition of ōtawara-hiki, in which participants heave a 3-ton bale of rice straw in the manner of a tug of war.

The objective of this battle of brawn is to predict whether the new year will be blessed with either good business or a plentiful harvest. The former will be expected if the team wearing red hachimaki (headbands) wins two out of three bouts, while the latter will hopefully come to fruition if the team with white headbands is victorious.

The main event will take place at 3:20 p.m. on Heisei Street, but a limited number of visitors will be allowed to give the rope a tug beforehand.

At the end of the day, the festivities will wrap up with 366 fukukodawara (lucky charms shaped like small straw bales) tossed in the air for attendees to pick up and take home for an extra bit of happiness. (Yuki Yamauchi)

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.