Although it’s said that the novelty wears thin fast, the best time to visit Uwajima is for one of its bullfights, or tōgyū, the bovine equivalent of sumo wrestling. Some accounts date the sport back four hundred years, while others pinpoint the origins in the nineteenth century, when a Dutch captain made a gift of bulls to the town, after local fishermen came to his ship’s aid during a typhoon. The bulls, weighing in at up to a tonne and treated like pampered pets by their owners, lock horns and struggle either to push each other to the floor or out of the tournament ring. The fights are held five afternoons a year (Jan 2, the first Sun in April, July 24, Aug 14 and the fourth Sun in Oct; details at w www.tougyu.com) at the Tōgyū-jō, a white-walled arena in the hills above the city. Get there an hour early to soak up the atmosphere and watch the bulls being paraded around the ring. The bouts are very good-natured and the enthusiastic crowd is welcoming and friendly. Tickets cost ¥3000 and can be bought on the day at the arena.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Japan features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

In search of the secret to long life in Nagano

In search of the secret to long life in Nagano

People in Nagano, Japan, live longer than virtually anywhere else on earth. But what’s the secret of this success? Our writer Shafik Meghji travelled across…

16 May 2018 • Shafik Meghji local_activity Special feature
Kyushu's living stories: exploring Japan's unsung corner

Kyushu's living stories: exploring Japan's unsung corner

This year Japan celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration – the event that returned the emperor to the throne, and set the country back on th…

09 May 2018 • Neil McQuillian local_activity Special feature
Revisiting Kyoto: why Japan’s cultural heart will win you over

Revisiting Kyoto: why Japan’s cultural heart will win you over

Kyoto hardly needs an introduction. In a country often associated with logic-defying bullet trains and kaleidoscopic mega cities, Japan’s former imperial capi…

08 May 2018 • Olivia Rawes insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right