Hadaka Matsuri

3 Bizarre Japanese Festivals

Japan has numerous festivals held throughout the year which makes the country always a wonderful place to visit anytime. This Japanese culture embraces religious beliefs and historical events that make it a worthwhile experience for any visitor. Some festivals can be traced for as far back as hundreds of years. The festivals are so different and unique and even bizarre. Check out some of them:

Suwa Taisha Shrine

Suwa Taisha Shrine.

Onbashira Matsuri (御柱祭)

Onbashira or Mihashira are four wooden pillars or posts that are usually found on the four corners of local shrines in the areas of Lake Suwa in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. The largest of these onbashira are the ones standing on the four shrines making up the Suwa Grand Shrine complex.

Onbashira festival is known as “Great Pillar Festival”  and has been held at the Suwa Taisha Shrine for the past 1,200 years. The celebration happen only one in every seven years when the townspeople chop down large logs that have been hand-picked from the mountains. The logs are carried by the people all the way to the shrine with the biggest log weighing about ten tons. The log are then planted upright from the ground on the four corners of the shrine. The Onbashira festival is said to be the most dangerous festival in Japan as many people are injured or killed as they ride the logs as it slides down the mountain.

The festival is divided into two main parts, yamadashi (riding the logs down the mountain) which is held on three consecutive days in early April and satobiki (entering the shrine and raising the pillars) which is celebrated in mid-May. It is believed that the area is spiritually renewed by raising the new pillars as divine spirits dwell among the trees.

Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri 

The Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri (裸祭り “Naked Festival”) is held on the third Saturday of February each year in Okayama where it originated. Several other Hadaka Matsuri are held in other parts of Japan at different times, but the one in Okayama is the most popular.

It is a Japanese festival where participants, usually men, wear the traditional Japanese loincloth known as fundoshi, sometimes with a happi coat, a conventional Japanese coat with straight sleeves. It is usually made of indigo or brown cotton and imprinted with a crest. More than 9,000 men participate in the Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri each year.

Masu with sake

Masu with sake.

Dorome Matsuri

Dorome refers to a sardine fry that’s about 2-3 centimeters and is a specialty of Kochi Prefecture. The fish are eaten fresh, dipped in a sauce made from vinegar, minced garlic greens and miso. It is a popular side dish when drinking alcohol.

In the town of Akaoka, an annual Dorome Festival is celebrated to recognize its local delicacy. People participate in a drinking competition to see who can drink an oversized cup of sake in wooden cups called masu the fastest. The winner will have good fortune for the year ahead.