Japan is famous for its numerous festivals that take place throughout the year. Some end up exceeding the limit and it ends up becoming something bizarre and strange for us Westerners, or maybe even for themselves. In today's article I set out some bizarre and strange festivals to make you want to participate.
Hokkai Heso Matsuri
In the city of Furano in Hokkaido, there is the Heso Matsuri or Festival of the navel. At this festival, participants paint faces on their bellies and wear special costumes that make the face on the belly have a “body”.
They then dance to compete for prizes, although perhaps the real winners are the spectators! This is a fun game with around 5,000 participants exposing their bellies on the 28th and 29th of July each year (cover photo of the article).
Kanamara Matsuri is a very popular festival in Japan and is known internationally. Held annually on the first Sunday in April, Shinto priests carry around the event a support called mikoshi with a metal penis on top of a boat-shaped structure.
In modern days, many people get together to take pictures of the metal member and buy souvenirs like lollipops, chocolate-covered bananas and other rather curious things. Then they complain about saying that the Japan is strange and bizarre.
Hitorizumo Matsuri (juice)
In the prefecture of Ehime, a major battle for the fate of the rice crop takes place every May 5, or Children's Day. This fight is carried out at the Oyamazumi shrine on the island of Omishima. This battle is fought by a sumo wrestler against the spirit of rice. That is, someone invisible. How do we know if the sumo wrestler isn't cheating when he said he won the fight?
Hadaka Matsuri - Naked men desperate for an amulet
Many who visit Japan need to prepare for nudism in public places like onsen (hot springs) and sit (public baths), places where modesty is left at the entrance. So it is no surprise that there are festivals that celebrate nudism.
At Hadaka matsuri men wear nothing but a fundshi (thong). The most famous occurs at the Saidaji Temple, in Okayama Prefecture. At this festival, about 10,000 male participants are in loincloths in a tight place rubbing themselves. They desperately compete for lucky charms called shingi.
The festival is held on the third Saturday of February each year, the weather is absolutely freezing. In addition, participants take a dip in cold water! Are you brave enough to face this violent, testosterone-filled climate?
Nakizumo is a festival aimed at bringing good health to babies, but for that they must cry. In Sesoji's time in Tokyo, about 60 babies are taken to a sumo ring, where wrestlers gently shake the babies and whoever cries first wins.
A referee is on hand shouting “NAKE, NAKE!” ("Cry, cry!") And if the babies still don't cry, some masked volunteers enter the ring to scare the children and speed up the process. Nakizumo competitions take place in various parts of Japan and depending on the region the baby who cries first is the loser! This ritual takes place about 400 years ago, although the event at the Sensoji Temple only started in 1991.
There are actually two versions of this festival, both practiced in Miyako on the island of Okinawa. Both involve the Pantu, supernatural beings who find themselves somewhere between gods and demons and roam the city with a procession of priests to ward off evil spirits. The festival is believed to be related to similar festivals in Indonesia and Micronesia.
The festival of the Hirara Shimajiri area is called Pantu Punaha, and is the last of three festivals held at different times throughout the year, collectively called Pantu Satupunaha. One of the modalities of this festival works with three men covered in grass and mud walking everywhere. They carry sticks in one hand and a frightening mask in the other. People who are soiled by Pantu will have a year of protection. Homeowners also invite Pantu to bless their homes.
Another strange festival, used to scare children is Namahage Matsuri. Namahage is a demon who wears a mask and scares children in the city of Oga in Akita. On New Year's Eve, Namahage walks around the area dancing and shouting to lazy and disobedient children.
Parents invite them into their homes, offering mochi (rice ball) and sake in exchange for the promise of good health and good harvest in the new year. But these "demons" make sure to scare disobedient children a little before going to the next place. The video below shows the whole process, from the purification of Namahage.