3 of the Most Fascinating and Somewhat Unusual Festivals that are Celebrated in Japan!

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  • There are so many festivals that occur in Japan throughout the year; however, some may appear stranger than the others. Nonetheless, these traditional celebrations are fascinating and may even be considered unusual among locals too. So, here is a list of 3 of the strangest festivals that you can experience in Japan.

    1. Kokusekiji Sominsai (Iwate)

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    This is one of Japan’s most famous naked festivals. It is a strange sight seeing men clad in only fundoshi, a traditional Japanese undergarment. This event takes place on an icy mid-February night where men pour cold water on themselves to drive away bad fortune and pray for a rich harvest. A great deal of marching and yelling is seen throughout the festival and the madness begins at midnight and continues until dawn.

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    At some point, the men are divided into two groups where they compete to grab a sacred bag believed to hold good luck.

    Iwate Website*Japanese Only
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    2. Kanamara Matsuri (Kanagawa)

    festival-phallus

    Kawasaki’s Kanamara Matsuri is centered around the all important phallus (an object that symbolically resembles a penis) that venerates the shrine and occurs on the first Sunday of April. The legend being that a demon was hiding inside a woman’s vagina and castrated two men on their wedding nights with its sharp teeth. The woman then sought the help of a blacksmith who made an iron phallus in order to break the demon’s teeth, and therefore, the iron phallus was then made divine and was enshrined for preservation.

    Kawasaki Daishi Website*Japanese Only
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    3. Paantu Punaha (Okinawa)

    festival-paantu

    Paantu Punaha is a century-old festival in Miyako Island of Okinawa Prefecture where men clad in tribal masks and cover themselves in mud while walking along the village streets to scare away evil spirits, and it usually occurs around early September. “Paantu” means monster while “punaha” means pray and the tradition is usually performed by three men who go to a sacred well to slather themselves with mud and leaves. They then stroll along the streets wearing a mask as Paantu and will chase away anyone who gives them eye contact as well as slathering them in mud.

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    As you can expect, these 3 festivals in particular – be it strange to you or not – have continued to gain a lot of popularity among the locals as well as tourists over the past few years. So, if you’re in the right area at the right time, you may just be in for a treat!

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