When I arrived in Nara I came originally to see the famous shrines and the Giant Buddha.
But once I arrived, the lady at the tourist information was very excited to inform me that there was an antler cutting ceremony going on in Nara park, which is where I was heading to anyway.
Antler cutting ceremony? Never heard of such a thing, so of course I had to go check it out.
And I have to say it turned out to be another one of those weird and wonderful things that make Japan so worth visiting.
There were three stags in a kind of arena. About 20 men in blue uniforms marched in accompanied by the sound of slow and steady drum beats. Here’s the drummer.
The men then make a bit of a show of chasing one of the three stags and trying to catch it with something like a lasso. The stag initially manages to get away and they have to try again and again but in the end they manage to tie one down.
They wrestle the stag to the floor and carry it over onto this mat. The drum beats are getting faster now, to emphasise the suspense!
Note that the guy in the light blue costume is approaching. He’s the master of antler cutting (this is not the official name but that’s what I figured he was).
All the while we have an MC shouting into the microphone. No idea what he’s saying but he sounds extremely enthusiastic.
The men place the stag on the mat and hold him down. One of the guys lies on top of the animal to make sure he can’t wrangle himself free. The drum beats are getting faster…
And he’s got the saw going.
It only takes a few seconds to cut off one of the antlers. All the while the drums are going and the MC is shouting into the mike.
And finally the antler cutting master proudly presents the antlers to the audience. The drum beats are going mental and the MC is almost jumping down from his little podium out of sheer excitement.
The guys in dark blue let the stag go and the MC shouts: “Sayonara!” and of the poor little guy goes. Somewhat disoriented, I presume, but happy to be out of this circus.
Right, one stag down, two more to go. Same procedure as before – start from the top!