INSANELY WEIRD Is An Understatement For These 7 Festivals in Japan

INSANELY WEIRD Is An Understatement For These 7 Festivals in Japan

Death by log riding?! Penis worshipping?! Whacking each other with bamboo poles?! You haven't seen CRAZY until you've experienced these weird Japanese festivals personally...

OHHHH, festivals! A perfect excuse for everyone to party and celebrate! In Japan, festivals take place all the time but they differ by region. They range from the famous Gion Matsuri in Kyoto featuring tall festival floats, to the Sapporo Snow Festival with large snow and ice sculptures. Then there are also freakishly weird and bizarre ones that make you wonder HOW ON EARTH they came about.

The creativity and uniqueness of Japan’s culture simply knows no limits! Japan fully deserves the award for having the CRAZIEST festivals in the world. And if you are ever the adventurous soul, go ahead, make a trip to Japan and take part in these insane festivals!

Also Read: What to Eat in Japan: 23 Must-Try Foods Other than Sushi

1. Kanamara Matsuri (The Penis Festival)

Image credit: Takanori on Flickr

Held annually in April in Kawasaki, Japan, this festival is an ancient tradition that serves to celebrate fertility, long marriages and healthy births, as well as promote awareness about sexually transmitted diseases like HIV. There are all kinds of penis paraphernalia that will be paraded around, be it penis hats, costumes, puppets, floats or even lollipops.

You will even see grandmothers licking penis-shaped lollipops without a care in the world. Don’t be alarmed, that’s perfectly normal.

A contest is also held where participants have to carve radishes into the shape of a penis. Large wooden penises are also available for people to mount or take funny photos with. Well, this is definitely NOT a festival you would want to attend with your family…

2. Hadaka Matsuri (The Naked Festival)

Image credit: Calltheambulance on Flickr

The whole highlight of this festival is basically a pair of lucky sacred sticks that are thrown into the crowd by a priest from a window four metres above, in a temple at Okayama. According to Japanese tradition, anyone who gets the sacred wooden sticks and thrusts them into a wooden measuring box called masu will receive good luck and happiness for an entire year. As such, NINE THOUSAND naked men, covered only in white loincloths, scramble in a mad rush to catch the lucky sticks.

If this isn’t madness, I don’t know what is.

3. Naki Sumo Matsuri (Baby Crying Festival)

Image credit: Gideon Davidson on Flickr

Crying babies are a handful and often seen as annoying but ironically, they are highly encouraged at this festival! Yes, it might seem unbelievable to some who might be wondering: why do the whiniest ones win?! Well, this baby crying festival is a 400 year old tradition. It is believed that a loud cry from a baby will scare away demons, hence giving them a long and healthy life.

Two sumo wrestlers hold a baby each and face each other in the sumo wrestling ring, before proceeding to make weird faces or wear scary masks to make their assigned baby cry. The baby who cries first, the loudest, or the longest, is the eventual winner. There’s even a sumo referee present to judge the match, which shows how serious they take this competition.

Parents might be sending their kids to participate just for good fun, but these poor miserable babies sure don’t look amused at all!

4. Hokkai Heso Matsuri (Belly Button Festival)

Image credit: Furano Tourism Association

Belly dancing may have originated in the Middle East, but the Japanese have reinvented it into a humorous art form, as shown in this festival! It has become one of the most famous summer festivals in Hokkaido, drawing an audience of locals and tourists alike.

The centre of one’s body is the belly button, and because Furano is the centre of Hokkaido, it is hence deemed as Hokkaido’s ‘belly button’. As such, the residents of Furano have creatively incorporated the concept of the belly button into the festival through the use of stomach art. Dancers paint faces onto their chests and stomachs, using the belly button as a mouth, and proceed to compete through their energetic belly dancing.

I must say, the colourful painted faces on people’s bodies is certainly a BELLY, BELLY funny sight!

5. Akutai Matsuri (Cursing Festival)

Image credit: Asakusaomatsuri

Cathartic cursing? YES PLEASE.

If you have a lot of pent up anger or stress and just need to let it all out by cursing, now you can at the Akutai Matsuri! The Japanese are known to be reserved and extremely polite, but this festival has revealed that they are indeed human after all. During the festival, thirteen priests dressed up as mythical demons called “tengu” travel up Mount Atago to the Atago Shrine, making offerings along the way. Participants are then encouraged to shout insults at the “demons” and try to steal their offerings, which are said to bring good luck. In recent years, there have been more foreigners hurling insults in English, which goes to show that cursing… is

During the festival, thirteen priests dressed up as mythical demons called “tengu” travel up Mount Atago to the Atago Shrine, making offerings along the way. Participants are then encouraged to shout insults at the “demons” and try to steal their offerings, which are said to bring good luck. In recent years, there have been more foreigners hurling insults in English, which goes to show that cursing… is universal.

6. Takeuchi Matsuri (Bamboo Battle Festival)

Image credit: Rokugo-mizu

We all know how important rice is to Asians, don’t we? The Japanese evidently take their rice very seriously as seen at the Takeuchi Matsuri. Young men are split into two teams, “North” and “South”, and battle it out by thwacking and pummeling each other with 40 feet long BAMBOO POLES. That just spells dangerous. Nevertheless, they believe that if the North wins, there will be a good harvest, and if the South wins, the price of rice will go up. Watching this festival will definitely make you tremble in fear and excitement.

7. Onbashira Matsuri (Log Riding Festival)

Image credit: Jim George on Flickr

Can you believe it – this traditional Shinto festival has actually existed for 1200 years! This festival is no laughing matter because participants have actually died or gotten injured from taking part in it. Onbashira, also known as the “honoured pillars”, are large tree trunks placed at the four corners of the four shrine complexes at the Suwa Grand Shrine. The onbashira come from 200 year old Japanese fir trees, of which 16 are carefully selected and felled for the festival. Check out the intense log riding action in the video below.

Held once every six years, men from the towns and villages around Lake Suwa in the Nagano Prefecture RIDE gigantic logs down steep slopes while risking their lives, in order to demonstrate their courage and bravery. Well, I’m sure there are other safer ways of demonstrating one’s bravery… But nevertheless, being killed while participating is this festival is considered an honourable death. I can’t even fathom how the volunteers feel before taking part in this festival, being fully aware that they might not return alive. May the odds be ever in their favour.

Also read: Exciting Seasonal Festivals in Japan You Don’t Want to Miss

SO UNBELIEVABLE, RIGHT?! Without fail, Japan surprises us over and over again! Head over now to witness all these crazy festivals in their full glory.

About Author

Carissa Ng
Carissa Ng

Carissa is fascinated by the complexity of globalisation, and the interdependence of diverse cultures. Her mind constantly drifts off to dreams of travelling around the world, because she wants to explore every continent and city. She is also a sleepyhead-sloth who has a huge weakness for rainbows, sushi, all things Korean, and adorable chubby babies.

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