Miyazaki: Mythological Tatami-Tossing Contest Held, Again

Yomiuri Shimbun photos
Participants throw tatami mats in a myth-based contest at Amano Iwato Shrine in Takachiho, Miyazaki Prefecture, on Dec. 22.

TAKACHIHO, Miyazaki — Amano Iwato Shrine in Takachiho, Miyazaki Prefecture, revived a traditional event of throwing tatami mats based on the mythology of the town. The town is believed to be the place where the gods descended from the heavens to this world.

The event held in December of last year for the first time since 2019 is based on a myth about how the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, believed to be the ancestor of Japan’s Imperial family, hid in a cave called Amano Iwato after becoming enraged by her younger brother’s outrageous behavior.

According to the myth, the world fell into darkness after Amaterasu went into hiding. Troubled by the situation, the gods and goddesses discussed how to resolve it. They eventually lured Amaterasu out of the cave with dances and chants.

After luring her out, Tajikarao no Mikoto, a deity of great strength, lifted the rock used as a door for the cave and flung it away. The rock door is said to have flown to present-day Nagano Prefecture.

Inspired by the myth, the Amano Iwato Shrine holds a contest where participants compete to see who can throw a tatami mat, symbolizing the rock door, the furthest. A total of 100 participants, including local elementary school students and tourists, threw tatami mats with all their might.

The tatami used for the children’s division is 90 centimeters in length and width, while the tatami used for all other participants is 1.6 meters long by 0.9 meters wide and weighs 20 kilograms. Some participants threw the larger mat more than 10 meters.

“I was able to throw it far,” said an 11-year-old local boy who threw his tatami mat nearly 8 meters.