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The tasuki: exploring symbolism, its cultural significance and the role in Ekiden races

There is more of an Ekiden than lacing up your trainers and hitting the road. It’s about camaraderie, effort and importantly a piece of cloth known as a tasuki. This simple cloth sash, worn across the body and used in lieu of a baton, plays a critical role in the sport and carries a deeper cultural significance.

The tasuki is steeped in symbolism. It represents the shared endeavour of each team and the interconnectedness of the runners. Each member doesn’t just pass a sash; they pass on the responsibility, the trust, and the spirit of the team to the next runner. This tradition harks back to the origin of Ekiden, inspired by the communication system of old Japan where messages were relayed over distances by multiple runners.

But the tasuki isn’t only significant in the context of Ekiden. It has roots in broader Japanese culture as well. Traditionally, the tasuki was a practical garment used to tie up the sleeves of a kimono, enabling freer movement for work or even combat. Over time, its role expanded beyond the practical into the symbolic, representing the idea of preparedness, readiness, and cooperation.

In Ekiden races, the tasuki is more than a practical tool for distinguishing teams and marking the transition between runners. It serves as a constant reminder of the unity and shared purpose that underpin the event. As each runner puts on the tasuki and takes up their leg of the race, they not only take on the physical challenge but also engage with a deeper cultural tradition.

As we prepare to bring Ekiden to the UK in 2024, we also look forward to introducing the tasuki to the scene. This simple sash, rich in cultural symbolism, promises to add a unique dimension to the experience of both runners and spectators alike. As the tasuki is passed from runner to runner, we’ll be able to witness the embodiment of shared effort and unity, echoing the spirit of Ekiden and bringing a touch of Japanese tradition to UK soil.

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