Most of us celebrate and start the new year with resolutions that we’ll really never do, aside from the usual fireworks display and colorful and yummy food. Japan is one of the countries in the world that has interesting celebrations and traditions.
One of these is the Tamaseseri Festival, or Ball-Catching Festival in Fukuoka. Half-naked men scramble for a lucky 8-kg ball in a shower of cold water in the shrine. The ball, also known as takara-no-tama is believed to bring good fortune upon the person who can lift it over his head. The group is divided into two: Land Team, consisting of famers and the Sea Team, which consists of fishermen. According to the Japanese, whether the year will bring a rich harvest/catch will be determined by which team gets the ball and hands it to the Shinto priest. The Tamaseseri festival is one of the three main festivals of Kyushu and dates back 500 years. Historians also said that it originated from the legend of the dragon god (ryujin) offering two balls to Empress Jingu.
At 1 in the afternoon, two purified balls, “yang” and “yin” representing masculinity and femininity respectively, are brought to the Tamatori Ebisu Shrine. Children carry the “yang” ball in the direction of Hakozaki Shrine and hand it to the men waiting halfway. The men then scramble for the ball until they pass under the torii gate. As they reach for the ball, the participants are splashed by cold water despite the winter cold and because the Japanese believe that whoever touches the ball will have good luck, spectators struggle to reach it, creating excitement in the crowd.