The game Tug-of-War has ancient origins in cultures around the world. The phrase "tug-of-war" originally meant "the decisive contest; the real struggle or tussle; a severe contest for supremacy." This contest comes from ancient ceremonies and rituals. Evidence of this ritual is found in countries like Egypt, India, Myanmar, and New Guinea. During the Tang Dynasty it was called "hook pulling" (牽鉤). In ancient Greece, the sport was called helkustinda. It was not until the 19th century that the contest became an athletic endeavor between two teams pulling at opposite ends of the rope.
In Korea, there are tug-of-war contests or, juldarigi, on rice farms to celebrate Full Moon Day in the New Year. The Full Moon Day celebrates the new growing season and hopes for a plentiful harvest.
To play the game, each household makes a rope together by weaving and twisting a straw line. It can be as long as 20 meters in length. Teams of folk people will be divided into east and west or north and south of the village. Tradition believes that the winning side will have a better yield during harvest. During the pull, festive performances cheer the play alongside the action. After the game is over and the winners determined, the rope gets decorated on a tree or a rock that symbolizes a village or, the rope is donated to fishing boats to ensure a great harvest season.
In Japan, the tug-of-war (綱引き/Tsunahiki in Japanese) is a staple of school sports festivals. The tug-of-war is also a traditional way to pray for a plentiful harvest throughout Japan and it is a popular ritual around the country. The Kariwano Tug-of-War in Daisen, Akita, is said to be more than 500 years old, and is a national folklore cultural asset.The Underwater Tug-of-War Festival in Mihama, Fukui is 380 years old, and takes place in every January.The Sendai Great Tug of War in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima is known as Kenka-zuna or "brawl tug". Around 3,000 men pull a huge rope which is 365 metres (1,198 ft) long. The event is said to have been started by feudal warlord Yoshihiro Shimadzu, with the aim of boosting the morale of his soldiers before the decisive Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. Nanba Hachiman Jinja's Tug-of-War, which started in the Edo period, is Osaka's folklore cultural asset.The Naha Tug-of-War in Okinawa is also a famous ritual.