7 Unique Festivals Only Found in Japan

There is no doubt that Japan is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It has a rich history and a proud heritage. In fact, it is home to 14 UNESCO buildings and 13 cultural assets.

There are so many things to do in Japan you’ll need to visit for at least a month to stand a chance of seeing them all.

But, you should also check out the following 7 festivals, you’re unlikely to find anything like them elsewhere in the world:

Naki Sumo Matsuri

This is actually a baby-crying festival. Once a year parents will bring their babies to the Sensoji temple and encourage them to cry. The idea is that the crying wards off demons, allowing the children to grow up healthy and happy.

Babies are given to wrestlers who will try to make them cry, the one that cries the loudest and longest is the winner!

Hokkai Heso Matsuri

With another unusual theme, this festival focuses on the belly button. The name originated from the fact that Forano is considered to be the belly of the Hokkaido region.

The idea behind the festival was to bring the scattered community together at least once a year. You’ll find an array of amusing character faces painted on bellies here.

Warai Matsuri

In October you’ll find that laughter really is the best medicine. The Nyu Shrine is the meeting spot for people wanting to make the goddess Niutsuhime laugh, to cheer her up.

At this event, there is usually a parade led by a clown and everyone laughs together at the shrine.

Shukatsu Festa

It can be argued that Japanese culture is one of the best at facing and accepting death. This festival celebrates that and gives you a chance to try before you die.

Shukatsu Festa is held between September and December and gives you the opportunity to try out funeral garments, ay down in a coffin, and even learn how to write end-of-life notes. This ritual may seem bizarre but it’s seen as a positive way of accepting death in order to enjoy life.

Kanamara Matsuri

This is also known as the festival of the steel phallus or simply the penis festival and it celebrates a young woman’s ability to overcome the odds.

The legend states that a demon liked the woman, who didn’t like him. Overcome with jealousy he hid inside her and bit off the penis of every man she made love to. A local blacksmith made a steel phallus which broke the demons’ teeth and allowed the woman to live a normal life.

At Kanamara Matsuri, the phallus is still honored today and it has become a very popular festival with people of all sexualities. If you want to check it out you’ll need to visit Kawasaki in the spring.

Hadaka Matsuri

The naked man festival is on the third Sunday in February, one of the coldest nights of the year. This event involves local men wearing nothing but a loincloth and waiting for the priest to throw sacred sticks.

Catching one means you’re going to have a lucky year. These festivals are held across the country but the largest, and most famous, is at Saidai-ji.

Akutai Matsuri

This is the cursing festival and one of the few times that swearing in public in Japan is acceptable. It’s held on the third Sunday of December.

The best part? You can join in. It’s a 40-minute hike to the Atago Shrine and you can spend the whole walk cursing at the 13 priests leading the procession.

Now you know you want and need to visit Japan, you just need to decide which festival to try first!


Feature photo credit: Flickr

About the Author

Julie Henning
Julie Henning is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Eugene, Oregon. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and owner of the family-travel website RoadTripsForFamilies.com. She is a recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. Julie is the Oregon Coast destination specialist for Bindu Media, an itinerary-focused website launching in Spring 2016 and featuring the work of 200+ professional, indie travel writers. Julie has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources (DNR) Magazine, Sustainable Chicago Magazine, Group Tour Magazine, Student Group Tour Magazine, Silent Sports Magazine, Intercom Magazine, Roadtrippers.com, and FTF Geocacher Magazine. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio and is an affiliate producer with the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. She has blogged for TravelWisconsin.com, Travel Oregon, and VISIT Milwaukee. Julie travels with her three kids and black lab as much as possible and lives by the motto, "Not all who wander are lost." Check out some of her best work at www.juliehenning.com.

2 Comments on "7 Unique Festivals Only Found in Japan"

  1. Japan is a country that has so much to offer to tourists. These festivals seem really exciting! I can not wait to get to Japan!

  2. These festivals shows that no matter how much they achieved success in the field of technology but they didn’t forget their roots or cultural activities. This is what completes a developed nation.

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