I really had no idea what to expect from the Tatemon festival. I knew that
1) It’s Uozu’s biggest festival
2) I should definitely wear running shoes
3) Everyone chuckled when I told them I was participating and pointed to their arms saying “Pain!”
We arrived around 6:30 and met with the other volunteers to put on our loaned Happis and gloves and to be briefed on how everything would go down. At 7:30 we headed out to our Tatemon and watched the fireworks over the water. Then, we got into position on the rope. There were about 20 men pushing the Tatemon on the beams and maybe 30 people pulling the rope.
The Tatemon themselves weigh FIVE tonnes and have no wheels. They’re essentially sleighs being pulled and pushed on concrete. The leader would blow the whistle, we’d get into position and all yell as we moved forward, eventually getting enough momentum before we’d run for about 20 seconds and then stop. Repeating as we moved down the road. It became pretty clear that even though all of us pulling were exhausted (lying on the ground between pulls), those pushing were doing 90% of the work. Sweat was literally dripping from everyone.
Once you arrive in front of the shrine, all the pullers leave and the pushers turn the Tatemon three times. Some of the guys get to run around the Tatemon holding the the ropes attached to its top. They run till they pick up speed and then leap into the air, flying for a few seconds George of the Jungle style.
We finished pulling about 11:00 pm feeling very accomplished. It was such a fun experience and truly a group effort. Each time we stopped for a break everyone would look and nod in exhaustion “I know that feel…”. I took all these pictures before we pulled, so they don’t at all capture the energy and business of the festival, all the yelling and Taiko drumming.
If you want to see everything in action, check out the video below from 2012 (5:12 for the Tatemon spinning)!!!