Translated by Allie
The Gatalympic Games at Saga's Ariake Sea - Get Muddy And Play!!
Written by Norihisa Hasegawa
The Gatalympics held in Saga prefecture are a truly unique event even among Japan's many festivals. A muddy sports festival that anyone can participate in - learn more about the Gatalympics here!
There are many unique events held in each area of Japan. Out of these events, we would like to introduce the Gatalympic today, an event that is only held in one place in all of Japan. The Gatalympic is a sport event held in the mudflats of the Ariake Sea in Saga prefecture and is one in which participants enjoy getting covered in mud from head to toe.
What is the Gatalympic?
The Gatalympic is held from the end of May to the beginning of June at Kashima Roadside Station in Kashima, Saga Prefecture. The 32nd Gatalympic was held in 2016.
It was named Gatalympic because it is held in the Higata (tidal flats) of the Ariake sea. The highlight of this event is not only the games, but also the unique costumes participants wear.
The exact date when the Gatalympic is held all depends on tides. If you want to join this event, please check the exact date out on their official website. If you want to participate in games, you need to pay 2000 yen per game although watching is free.
Unique Games You Can Participate In
There are eight games available to join, but we will be explaining only four of them in this article. Brenda and Amber who were exchange students from Taiwan studying at Saga university were going to participate in this event, so we went with them together to find out what this event was like.
Gatachari is an event where participants try to ride a bicycle on boards lined up on the mudflat, competing to see who can reach the goal first.
If you stray away from these boards you will fall flat onto the mud! You might think that speed is the answer though, but these bikes do not have any brakes, so even the fastest cyclist of all might find themselves face-first in the mud. This is a great event to watch.
2. Ningen Mutsugoro
Ningen Mutsugoro is a game wherein you lie on a board called a gata ski (*1) and paddle with your arms to reach the goal 25 meters away.
*1 Gata ski: a board similar to a long ski or snowboard on which you like bodyboard style to move across the mud.
The name of this came from its similarity in action to the mutsugoro, or mudskipper, which live in this mudflat, and basically translates to Human Mudskipper, in English.
Watching children and their parents ride on a gata ski is especially exciting.
Participants in kata-zan swing from ropes suspended by a crane down to the mudflat and part of their overall score is marked on the performance they give as they jump; making this a hilarious event to watch.
The Gatalympic is a game that four participants work on as a team together. Brenda participated this game with some other exchange students.
The rule of the Gatalympic is that you need to break through four sections by getting over obstacles and by using Gata skis to move onto another section. You need to pass a ball which is like a baton relay-style to another person from your team then try to reach the goal as fast as possible. As it is a team game, you will find yourself getting swept up in the excitement of cheering on your favorite team easily.
Wear Clothes You Can Get Dirty
The participants in this event aren’t always regulars either - some are first timers, who start off rather hesitant to enter the mudflat at first. But after falling into it, that’s it, they are ready to get dirty and have fun. Everyone always looks so happy after playing in the mud.
At the end of the event, every single participant will be covered in mud, just like in the picture above - it’s so much fun. However, when you participate, please wear proper clothes that you won’t mind getting dirty or a swimsuit that you can easily rinse clean afterwards. There are free shower facilities available after the event, so you won’t have to worry about walking around muddy all day if you remember to bring extra clothes and towels with you when you come.
It is really fun to just come and see it, but if you will be in Saga at this time, then please take part in this event. You won’t regret it and might even find yourself wanting to come back the next year!
Kashima Roadside Station
Address: Saga, Kashima-shi, Otonari kō 4427-6
Closed: New Years
Wi-fi: Not available
Credit Cards: Not accepted
Menus/Pamphlets in Other Languages: English, Chinese and Korean
Nearest Station: JR Hizen-Nanaura Station
Access: 5 minute walk from JR Hizen-Nanaura Station
Phone Number: +81-954-63-1768
Website/Homepage: Kashima Roadside Station, Gatalympic (Japanese)