Row, row, row your tubs..

Mon Jul 6, 2009 5:19am EDT
 
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ITO, Japan (Reuters Life!) - The nursery rhyme "rub a dub dub, three men in a tub" came to life in the Japanese city of Ito, which holds an annual laundry tub race to commemorate its river and the past.

More than 200 people took part in Sunday's race along a short stretch of the Matsukawa River, which runs through the city, around 120 km (75 miles) south of Tokyo. There were men, women and children, individually and in teams, competing, as well as a few ducks.

The event was set up in 1955 by city officials to pay homage to the river and the women who washed their laundry in small tubs along its banks in the 1930s and 1940s.

Today it attracts tourists from several countries, with an Italian team coming in second place after the Japanese winners.

"Some people fell in but that's what happens sometimes. You do your best and it's all about participation. It was a lot of fun this year," said Jason Block, a 33-year-old American participant.

The round tubs are 1 meter (3 ft) across and 30 cm (12 inches) deep. While the aim of the race is to out-paddle fellow racers, keeping the tub afloat is also a big task.

"I've been participating in the race for 10 years now so I should know how to win, but it's still difficult because I'm getting older and heavier," said 62-year-old Ichiro Sakamoto.

Despite a few overturned and sunken tubs, all competitors survived to paddle another day.

(Reporting by Hiro Muramoto, writing by Nick Burns, editing by Miral Fahmy)