Washtub race on the Matsukawa River

Deadheat among three female racers

The tub is ovally shaped

Preparing for start

Waiting for racers at the goal. Washtubs are hung on a thick roap and sent back to the starting point.

Young drummers
On the first Sunday of July a strange washtub race was organized on the Matsukawa River of Ito city.

In the earlier time housewives used to wash their laundry in the Matsukawa River with traditional utensils such as washtub and washboard. When those housewives were about to give up using river water for washing as a result of economic development, people of Ito started their first washtub race in 1956. Participants ride in tubs, which are one meter in diameter and 30 centimeters deep, and rush down the some 400 meter course using large wooden spoons as oars.

In an Italian town Rieti citizens started in 1969 a similar race using wine vats cut in half. I was surprised when I discovered that these races connected the two towns, Ito and Rieti, and they formally became sister cities in 1981. Therefore it is no surprise that an Italian team became the runners-up of this year's race.

There were more than 200 participants and it was not easy to get a ticket to participate in the tub race by drawing lots. Nevertheless, there were many foreign racers, because presumably the event came to be known also to foreign tourists. Moreover, not all foreign participants were beginners. The Italians from Rieti were experienced veterans.

Though the weather was not fine and not many spectators were watching the race, but the race was at least free from rain and successfully organized. There were a number of stalls in the nearby park and alleys. A music band and a young drum group livened up the festive atmosphere.

Many participants wore costume.