Japan is famous for its numerous festivals that take place throughout the year. Some end up going over the limit and it ends up becoming something bizarre and strange for us Westerners, or maybe even for themselves. In today's article I've put together some bizarre and weird festivals for you to get excited about.
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Hokkai Heso Matsuri
In the city of Furano in Hokkaido, the Heso Matsuri or Navel Festival takes place. In 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 (article cover photo).
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 stand called a mikoshi with a metal penis atop a boat-shaped structure.
In the modern day, many people gather to take pictures of the metallic member and buy souvenirs like lollipops, chocolate covered bananas and other rather curious things. Then they complain that the Japan is weird and bizarre.
Hitorizuma Matsuri (sumo)
In Ehime Prefecture, a major battle over the fate of the rice crop takes place every May 5th, or Children's Day. This fight is held at the Oyamazumi Shrine on the island of Omishima. This battle is fought by a sumo wrestler against the rice spirit. In other words, someone invisible. How do we know the sumo wrestler isn't cheating when he said he won the fight?
The artigo is still half finished, but we recommend opening it to read the following later:
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 sento (public baths), places where modesty is left at the entrance. So it's no surprise that there are festivals that celebrate nudism.
At Hadaka matsuri men wear nothing but a fundoshi (thong). The most famous takes place at Saidaji Temple in Okayama Prefecture. At this festival, around 10,000 male participants stand in a loincloth in a tight spot, rubbing each other. 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-fueled climate?
Nakizumo is a festival aimed at bringing good health to babies, but for that they must cry. In Sesoji's time in Tokyo, around 60 babies are taken to a sumo ring, where wrestlers gently shake the babies and whoever cries first wins.
A referee stands by shouting “NAKE, NAKE!” (“Cry, Cry!”) and if the babies still don't cry, some volunteers with masks enter the ring to scare the kids and speed up the process. Nakizumo competitions take place in various parts of Japan and depending on the region the baby that cries first is the loser! This ritual has been going on for about 400 years, although the event at Sensoji Temple only started in 1991.
There are actually two versions of this festival, both of which are 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 it is the last of three festivals held at different times throughout the year, collectively called Pantu Satupunaha. One of the features of this festival features three men covered in grass and mud walking everywhere. They carry sticks in one hand and a scary mask in the other. People who are dirty by Pantu will have one year of protection. Home owners also invite Pantu to bless their homes.
Another strange festival used to scare children is the Namahage Matsuri. The Namahage is a demon who wears a mask and goes around scaring children in the town of Oga in Akita. On New Year's Eve, the Namahage walks around the region dancing and shouting at the lazy and disobedient children.
Parents invite them into their homes, offering mochi (rice cake) and sake in exchange for the promise of good health and a good harvest in the new year. But these “demons” make sure to scare the naughty kids a little before they move on to the next place. The video below shows the entire process, from the purification of the Namahage.