Betting on the bulls now legal
Posted by ampontan on Thursday, September 22, 2011
IN MOST Western countries where bullfighting is performed in front of spectators in the guise of an art form, the fight ends when the matador kills the bull in the ring. (They are killed outside the ring in Portugal after the fight.) Indeed, there are reports that as many as 24,000 of the specially bred bulls are killed every year in bullfights in Spain. The artistry is held to derive from the toreador’s interpretative moves while very close to the bull, which means that he is in danger of being gored or trampled. To minimize that possibility, the bull is tranquilized, weakened by laxatives, beaten in the kidneys, partially blinded by petroleum jelly, confined in darkness before the fight, and stabbed by picadors and other men immediately after it enters the ring.
Bullfighting is also performed in front of spectators in Japan, Korea, and China. There is one significant difference, however — in this part of the world, two bulls face off against each other rather than a drugged and blinded bull charging a bully wearing a funny hat, tight pants, and twirling a cape and a sword. The winner is determined when the other bull backs off and runs away, and both bulls survive the match.
This academic paper (.pdf) offers a brief but informative description of bullfighting in Japan:
Although bullfighting occurs in six Japanese prefectures – Okinawa, Kagoshima, Ehime, Shimane, Niigata and Iwate – it is most popular in the Okinawa islands, in the Amami islands of Kagoshima prefecture and in Ehime. In Okinawa, there are eleven bullrings and thirty games a year in six locations – Okinawa City, Uruma, Ginowan, Motobu, Imakijin, and Yontani. (On the island of) Tokunoshima (Amami), there are thirteen bullrings in Tokunoshima, Isen, and Amagi and twenty games a year. In Ehime, there is one bullring, in Uwajima and five games a year.
This is what happens after a bullfight in Spain:
This is what happens after a bullfight in Japan:
The winning bull’s owner, his family and supporters always spill into the bullring to show their delight by riding on the back of the bull and dancing with hands and legs while singing Waido-bushi.
In South Korea, meanwhile, a bullfighting festival is held every year in Cheongdo:
The age-old tradition of Korean bullfighting is no longer just a simple tournament. While it was once only basic bullfighting, the sport has developed into an international event hosting tournaments such as a national bullfighting tournament, a Korea-Japan bullfighting festival, a rodeo tournament with US Army force participants in Korea, a tournament by world-renowned professional bullfight champions and the national bullfight picture-taking tournament.
The Cheongdo Bullfighting Festival is held for five days in April in that city in the southeastern part of the Korean Peninsula, about one hour north of Busan by train. It attracts roughly 300,000 people, some of whom come from Japan. (The festival website has a Japanese page to facilitate visits.) In fact, bullfighting is part of the thriving non-governmental exchange between Japan and South Korea. Here’s another passage from that academic paper:
There has been an exchange program between Korea and Tokunoshima since 1999 when three Tokunoshiman black bulls were sent to Chongdo and fought against Korean red bulls. The match was named the ‘Korea-Japan match-up’ and attracted an audience of several hundred thousand in Chongdo. After the event, goodwill ambassadors from Chongdo were sent to Tokunoshima. Honorable guests were also sent to the Bullfighting Summit in Japan (the fifth in 2002, the eighth in 2005 and the ninth in 2006).
The bullfighting in Cheongdo isn’t limited to the five-day festival, however. There are matches every weekend throughout the year in a domed ring with a capacity of 12,000. There’s no telling how the bulls will behave, so a 30-minute time limit has been set for each match. Ten matches a day are held in the 31-meter ring.
The spectacle is popular enough in South Korea that, starting on the 3rd of this month, spectators can now wager on the bulls, with the chance to win anywhere from KRW 100 to 100,000. (The max is only about $US 87.00 or JPY 6,644.) It is South Korea’s first public sector gambling operation.
Here’s a look at the Cheongdo bullfighting festival with red bulls:
And here are some scenes from Tokunoshima bullfights with black bulls, though the last features a battle between le rouge et le noir. There’s also a scene of the happy supporters riding the back of one of the winners. The last one on the bull’s back might be about the same age (six) at which some Mexican bullfighting schools accept trainees.
As a rule, my position is that comparisons are odious, particularly comparisons between East and West. This is one of the exceptions to the rule.
The title of the academic paper is Transperipheral Networks. While it is worth reading to learn about Japanese bullfighting, it was written to present a different argument. As so often happens in the social sciences, the argument is trite and already obvious to the average junior high school student:
The Bullfighting and cattle raising networks discussed in this paper show that major centres are not essential to cross-regional networking. In this manner, the seemingly ‘backward’ activity of bullfighting shares aspects with the more general globalisation of information in which every (facilitated) individual in the world can relate to each other through the medium of the internet. The formation of a ‘transperipheral’ network among the bullfighting areas thereby suggests another entrance to the world of globalisation that actively counters the massification and homogenisation of centrally-produced culture in favour of translocal difference.
Ah, well. On the one hand, it gives the three authors something to do with their time and keeps them off the streets. On the other, all the authors are affiliated with Kagoshima University. That’s a national university, which means the professors are paid with public funds.