In Okinawa, bullfighting is known as “Ushiōrasē.” Bullfighting tournaments are one of Okinawa’s more popular tourist attractions and consist of up to 20 bullfights throughout the year.
The origin of Okinawa’s bullfighting is not clear, but a local newspaper dating back to 1907 contains the oldest article written about the event. It is believed that it slowly developed into a custom of public entertainment, first for rural communities and then gradually spreading throughout Okinawa.
After that, the only time that the bullfighting ceased was for 3 years during World War II when the island became a battlefield. Following the war, an entrance fee was established for spectators and it developed into the popular form of entertainment that it has become today.
Nowadays, excluding the bullrings in the north and on some of the outer islands, Okinawa bullfights mainly take place in Uruma City at the Ishikawa Multipurpose Dome, the only bullring in Okinawa.
Unlike traditional bullfighting in Spain where the bull goes up against a man, Okinawa bullfights display bulls fighting each other.
The bulls who take part in these fights are strong varieties that have been gathered from all over Japan and each match is done by class, with the highest ranked bulls weighing in at over 1 ton. One tournament is made up of 10 matches, and some matches can be over in seconds while others can last for more than half an hour.
There is only one exit and entry point within the ring, and the fighting area is a soil patch measuring 20 meters in diameter and surrounded by an iron railing. Spectator seats surround the ring forming a bowl shape and, combined with the standing area, the Ishikawa Multipurpose Dome can house around 4000 people.
Prices depend on each tournament and vary from 2,500 yen to 3,000 yen. Spectators can choose the seat they would like to watch from, and those who desire to see these displays of power up close should sit as close to the fighting area as possible.
One highlight of the bullfights is the variety of techniques used by the bulls. The basic techniques include “oshi,” where the bull hits its opponent from the front, “wari” and “tsuki,” where the bull uses its horns to strike the opponent’s eyebrows, “kake,” where the bull rotates its horns around their opponent’s neck, “motase-komi,” which puts the bull’s weight onto the opponent, and finally “haratori,” where the bull attacks the side of its opponent when its guard is down.
The fighting style and best techniques to use also depend on the shape of the bull’s horns, and a great cheer erupts from the crowd every time a blow is skillfully delivered.
Another highlight is the bullfighter, known as the “seko,” whose job is to use a shout, called a “yagui,” along with various other movements to encourage the bulls and accelerate the fight.
The end of the match is decided when one bull either loses the will to fight and escapes, or is struck in its side with a “haratori” and can no longer move. You can enjoy these matches even more by looking at the match charts and having a guess on who will be victorious.
The most exciting tournament is the “All-Island Bullfighting Tournament,” which decides the strongest bull in the whole of Okinawa when each region’s winner faces off. This event takes place three times a year in May, August, and November, attracting many visitors.
Address : 2298-1 Ishikawa, Uruma, Okinawa Prefecture 904-1106