A historical and folkloristic study of
As a case study of * Otsunasan Festival"
Kuniko MATSUDA (Nara University of Education)
Today "Tug-of-War" is usually played as a game, for instance,
on the sports
day at schools. On the other hand, folk "Tug-of-War" have been handed down
all over Japan. This study will take up "Otsunasan Festival" in Ettumi and Onishi,
Sakurai City, Nara, Japan, as an example of folk "Tug-of-War".
Let me describe the outline of the festival. On the 11th of February every
year (formerly on the 10th of January in lunar calendar), the people of Ettumi
make "Ozuna", a huge male rope, while those of Onishi make "Mezuna", a huge
female rope. After walking around their own villages, they make "Ozuna" and
"Mezuna" ropes married. This Otsunasan Festival" is not so-called Tug-of-
War" game, which has limited meaning and is actually played by pulling the rope
from both sides.
In the former studies of "Tug-of-War", this festival was considered and counted
as one of * Kanjyokake" events, which are traditional events in Nara. Though the
viewpoint that this festival is considered as Kanjyokake" takes notice of the
site" itself to cross the ropes, it lacks the viewpoint of the huge "Ozuna" and
"Mezuna" ropes, which are the most 'characteristics of this festival. Therefore
the subject of this study is to take up this festival as one of variations of
"Tug-of-War", and to consider the meaning of the huge Ozuna" and Mezuna"
ropes. There are two reasons. One is that the broad interpretation of "Tug-of-War"
includes the actions of carrying and dragging the rope in the studies of "Tug-of-
War" in Kyushu district. The other reason is that the festival is considered to
be under the influence of the common culture of "Tug-of-War" in Japan.
If we consider this festival as one of the Tug-of-War" variations, we could
regard the unification of ' Ozuna" and "Mezuna" ropes as the influence of
"Tenpujiboseikonkannen" the notion of the hierogamy (holy marriage) between
the sky father and the earth mother which is common among "Tug-of-War"
in the civilization of rice-producing districts.