A few months back, my husband and I attended a bullfight in Okinawa, of all places!

Now, I’ve been to traditional Spanish style bullfights before and came away less than enthusiastic about recommending the gore or violence I witnessed there.

However, that was not the case here. The local Okinawan event we witnessed was NOT disturbing in the least. I highly recommend it!


On the contrary, it turned out to be an oddly energizing, lively, and fun event for adults and children alike.  We saw tons of families there with little children. It was also great for people watching, eating grilled meats, and seeing locals in their element! Unlike many spectator sports in the states, there was no beer to be had anywhere.


I’m certainly no expert on specific rules and particulars of Okinawan bullfights or what makes them different than say, Spanish ones. Feel free to read these other articles, if you’re interested.


But I will say that from my novice perspective, the Okinawan bullfight seemed kinder and gentler than its European variant.

The fight started off with the bulls locking horns. The whole time there was a team of handlers right out there in the ring taunting, yelling, and directing the bulls towards each other.

Sure, there was some grunting and chasing and a few tense moments when one bull got cornered or pushed up the side of the ring, but the fight ended peacefully when one bull simply turned and ran. It was not a fight to the death, and we did not see a single drop of blood. IMG_4323

In my opinion, the best part of the event was when a bull was declared the victor.

Imagine jubilation and cheering in the crowd and great fanfare. A huge bottle of Awamori was awarded to the winner.


In addition, the little son or daughter of the lead handler was placed on top of the bull and rode alone around the ring. Truly an amazing sight!

A team of handlers had to hold these tiny guys on! IMG_4245

Another exciting moment was after the tournament when everyone stormed the ring and we were able to get up close and personal with the bulls.

Gingerly making contact with the overall winner bull was well … a little scary! IMG_4375

Whoops…I must have done something to make the bull mad…IMG_4384


I don’t know if children pay the same as adults. However, we were about an hour late, and they only charged us 1500 yen per person.  The whole event only lasts about 3 hours.

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Take 58 North towards Nago. Pass Kadena AFB, continue straight, and look for Rte 73 on your right. Take 73 toward Ishikawa. Keep going until you see the dome on your left. The dome is large, grayish, and round on your left. The area is very rural, and there didn’t seem to be  an official parking place apart from spaces on the street. We essentially parked in a field and walked to the stadium. The stadium is covered, but the perimeter is open-air, so pack a hat and wear sunscreen.


  1. According to This Week on Okinawa (dated 3-9 Nov 13) the event starts at noon and will feature 13 mathes. Admission is 3,000 yen for adults, 1,000 yen for junior high and high school students. It is free for elementary school students and younger.

  2. We went to a bullfight earlier last year and it was a great cultural experience! Yes, a full bulls had a little blood, but it was for a sport that the Okinawans and their culture support. We had a 3 year old with us and he absolutely loved seeing the action, the colors and celebration for the victors, and the whole atmosphere. It is a great way to interact with the locals. Being Americans, we were given a discounted rate when we got to the front gate. We stayed for about 3 hours and it wasn’t quite done. Each event varies in time based on how the bulls do.

    For anyone who is curious or just wants to experience the culture, I would recommend this event! If you feel you may be unfortable with it, I would suggest either sitting at the top of the dome so you’re not right next to the action or not going.

    Over all, it is a fun family event if you are interested in this type of thing!

  3. I am super excited about taking my boys this Saturday. We have a bull in our neighborhood that walks around with his owner so we kind of have someone to cheer for! LOL I was curious to know what time the event started last year? I think we may go early for good seating!! 🙂

  4. A bull fight is no different front an “organized” dog fight or cock fight. Just because it’s “culture” doesn’t make it okay or morally right. The bulls do not get a choice in the matter and just because the bulls weren’t physically hurt the day you went doesn’t mean they never get hurt. And what about the mental issues?

    I just hope people think twice about taking their family to support these kinds of events…There are so many more other, nonviolent cultural events that people can take part in.

    • Actually, Miki, they are quite different than a dog fight or a cock fight. In those fights, they fight to the death for people’s enjoyment. In the Okinawan bullfights, the bulls are not killed or injured for fun. Seriously, mental issues…what type of mental issues?

  5. Bullfighting — whether the crowd sees blood shed or not — is not fun-and-games for the animals involved. I can’t fathom how anyone with any shred of compassion or respect toward other forms of life could think otherwise. Please don’t support this cruelty by patronizing these events.

  6. We attended a bullfight at this Isikawa dome on Oct 16th and it was GREAT! They ran an MCCS tour the same day, but we chose to go on our own. I am a softie when it comes to animals and this was NOT disturbing or cruel at all. The day we went it was free admission. They sold water, shave ice, beer and other snacks/drinks at the arena. The parking lot was full so we had to park across the street and walk to the arena but it was no problem. Highly recommended for adults and kids as a genuine, fun Okinawan experience!

  7. Okinawan bullfights are a cultural event, and an alternative to other kinds of entertainment on the island. We witnessed no blood or gore on the day we visited, and saw plenty of Okinawan and American families with children having a perfectly good time, not traumatized in the least.

    If it’s not for you, don’t go.

  8. Ah, so nice to see some ignorance. The bulls are still slaughtered after the extreme of taunting and getting their blood pressure to raise. This isn’t family friendly. This isn’t good entertainment. Bullfights in the wild are brief and one bull usually runs away before there’s any blood because they have the ability to. Please research this sort of thing.

    • I just had a chance to read this now, but talk about – not knowing what you are talking about and calling the rest of us ignorant. You said it yourself, bull’s run away before any blood – and that is exactly the nature of bull fighting in Japan. The object is not to get the bulls hurt, the game ends when the other bull run from the fight. And like Sumo, the advantage of position and stance determines the outcome, once a bull is flanked open from the locked horns and compromise its position, it will run.

  9. We went to the bullfight back in June on Father’s Day and our 1st adventure in Okinawa. Our experience was not a good one. Yes, it is exciting to see the people in the colorful attire, the huge bulls, music, etc., but when the bulls are injured, flipped over onto their backs straight up the rails by another bull, & bleeding profusely from their rib cage, leg, and face. Enough was enough and my family & I had to leave.
    Yes, a new experience indeed. But one I could have done without. Even my husband said he won’t be going back.