“The crashing of bull’s horns” in Yamakoshi.The most well-known men of the village talked about the history of the birth “MC Seko” & how to enjoy the event.
” The crashing of bull’s horns ” has been continually passed down from 1000 years ago in the region of mountain Ai in Niigata (now Nagaoka City Yamakoshi, Ojiya City Higashiyama). The so-called ‘bullfighting’ is a little different from that of other regions. The highlight of this bullfight is the test of the bull’s fighting spirit and the courage and skill of the Seko (Humbrol) the men who use their bare hand and ropes to pull the bulls away from each other when the bulls are tired and walk them away to keep them calm and compose.
May to November each year offer opportunities to witness the ‘bullfighting of Echigo Yamakoshi’. ‘The crashing of bull’ is a cultural tradition of Japan. But I find it difficult to understand the essence of the bull fight. So, I visited the Yamakoshi bullfighting society President Tomie Matsui who hosts the tournament and listen to him on how to enjoy the event.
The Seko of the Yamakoshi bullfighting society is 43 years old Mr.Atsushi Matsuda.
In the bullfighting tradition of Yamakoshi, he will enter the arena with the bull .He is responsible for the announcement as well as play the role of the moderator, does the commentary and the explanation while doing performing the job of a seko. The interview went on for two hours . This was the first experience an editorial staff of ‘The crashing of bull’s horns’ witnessed the unique and exceptional technique of Matsuda and the great excitement generated by the job of Seko . The job of a seko was not only similar to that of a boxing referee, he also played the role of the seconds and as well as a commentator of the fight.
First of all, let’s introduce the birth of Matsuda’s ‘Seko MC’.
Matsuda debuted as Seko in the first grade at a junior high school
Matsuda was born in Yamakoshi and grew up Yamakoshi.. ” I became aware when, I went to see the bull fighting with my grandpa.” he said. His house was one of the main venues at that time. He went to the event every time he was in the nursery,. He debuted as a Seko in the seventh year of Junior High school. “Similar to a young bull , the seko also mingles with seniors, and his experience grows because he learns while doing the job.
When he graduated from high school, he took the job of a Seko. At a ‘ crashing of bull’s horns’ event , there are 20 to 30 Seko in the arena , but only a few of them are responsible for the ropes. In the middle of the fight one of the sekos put the rope round the hind legs of the bull to separate the two bulls . Another Seko instantly pull the leash and another Seko put the rope through the nose which is a very vulnerable spot in a bull ‘s anatomy . The sekos cooperate together between so that they do not lose the bull .
“I want to tell you what bulls are thinking now.”
Matsuda took charge of the announcement as a Seko at the age of 23-24. Before Matsuda took the job , a skilled elder took charge of explaining the event at the commentator’s seat But the person retired because of his advanced age and Matsuda took over. At that time, Matsuda has already been a seko for ten years. As Matsuda wanted to continue to handle the rope. This has resulted in the Seko handling both the rope and making announcements and commentaries.
Matsuda says, ” What I desire the most is to tell the visitors who are watching the event what the bulls are thinking and how they are moving”. And I also want to tell them how well the bull leading the fight has done . While performing the job of a seko , he makes announcements and commentaries on the fight for the visitors.
Matsuda, who has been involved with bull as a seko for 30 years , has many things to talk about. The origin and personality of each bull, the battle techniques used by each bull , the battle between bulls and Sekos. The owner of a bull making a debut . Young bulls get used to the place, and accumulate experience from every fight, grow in both mind and body and “become adults”….
After the fight and in making the pitch to send the bull to the outside, he would say, “Well, lets pull the rope away from both the bulls and end the battle. Thank you very much for your applause.” The applause of the audience for the fight has brought more happiness for bull and Seko.
“Everyone is doing their job, and they keep bulls and also does the job of seko . That’s because they want to see a good fighting. And they want their bulls to grow stronger. That’s why weare doing our best, and our life will be a constant competition. “says Matsuda. He is happy to hear the words “coming again” from the visitors who enjoyed the fight . “I like the crashing of bull’s horns . It’s not easy to explain what’s interesting and how. It is only natural for the visitors to enjoy the crashing of the bull horns .”said with his best smile
Matsuda share 3things to how to enjoy
“The crashing of bull’s horns”
■1.The meaning of a drawn match.
——In the old days, ” The crashing of bull’s horns ” was “a place to display strength and courage of men ”. It is a serious game of where bulls violently crashing into each other . The women fell in in love with the reliable, brave figure of Seko who uses his bare hands to pull the bull . We also pay attention to the great cooperation between Sekos.
■2. The excitement of the audience when bulls’ and sekos ‘ strength and courage are harmoniously combined.
—— When the seko said, “It’s good” to the bull . The bull would be motivated to fight with all its power.
The fight became even more exciting with the roaring and applause of the audience. At the final round of the game , a few veteran bulls appeared in the arena to bring the fight to a climax adding excitements and thrills for audience . The fight ended with everyone in audience , the sekos and the bulls going back in harmony.
■3. The happiness of the watching my own bull growing.
—— The Bull debuted in ” The crashing of bull’s horns “at age 3 and has been active for more than 10 years. There are 60 bulls belonging to the Yamakoshi Bullfighting Association. It’s fun to cheer one of my favorite bulls which is growing strong and reliable. The bulls looked very calm when they were outside the arena.
“The crashing of bull’s horns” which began as a divine ritual has become an entertainment . Matsuda says, “It is interesting because it appeals to our natural instinct “. There are many people who are hopelessly addicted to it . In recent years, some people who live outside Yamakoshi area are involved as sekos in “ The crashing of bull’s horns ” or as owners of the bulls. According to Matsuda , “ The crashing of bull’s horns ” can be enjoyed and the next event of the Yamakoshi bullfighting will be on September 18,2016 ( Sunday) . First , try to enjoy the live event.
Text & Photos : Yasue Kameyama / Translated by 8TRIPS
Important Cultural Properties“ The crashing of bull’s horns in Echigo Yamakoshi
[Period] May 4th to November 3rd, 2017
[Time] Doors open at 10 a.m., matches begin at 1:00 p.m.
*will not be cancelled due to rain
[Venue] Yamakoshi Togyujo (Yamakoshi Bullfighting Arena), Nagaoka City
Directions 30 minutes by car from JR Nagaoka Station (Shinetsu Line)
30 minutes by car from the Ojiya IC on the Kanetsu Expressway
[Entrance fee] 2,000 JPY per person
(Children younger than elementary school age are free if accompanying a parent or guardian.)
*Please bring a mat or tarp to sit on instead of a seat.
［Reference］Yamakoshi bullfighting party