5 Unique and Strange Festivals in Japan

There are numerous festivals in Japan. From the most popular like the Gion Matsuri (Kyoto) and Kanda Matsuri (Tokyo) to the lesser known local matsuri, the country celebrates its festivals with flair. Here’s a look at some of the unique festivals you can only find in Japan.

1. Akutai Matsuri

Where: Atago Shrine, 102 Izumi, Kasama-shi, Ibaraki
The Festival: Also known as the Cursing Festival, Akutai Matsuri features 13 monks dressed up as tengu (mythical goblins or demons). Spectators are free to hurl insults and curse at the tengu as they parade around the shrine.

2. Kanamara Matsuri

Where: Kanayama-jinja, Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa
The Festival: Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Steel Phallus) is a phallus-themed fertility festival. It is also often referred to as the Penis Festival. The event features a phallic-shaped mikoshi, a giant pink penis effigy, and phallus-inspired items like candies.

3. Namahage Sedo Festival

Where: Shinzan Shrine, Oga-shi, Akita
The Festival: Namahage Sedo Festival combines the Shinto Saitousai ritual and the traditional Namahage. It follows a series of fascinating rituals one of the most stunning of which is when the participants wearing masks and bearing torches come down from the mountain and parade around the shrine.

4. Paantu Festival

Where: Miyako-jima, Okinawa
The Festival: Paantu is a festival in Miyako-jima that dates back to several centuries ago. Villages dressed up as spirit beings (paantus) covered in mud and leaves. Their role is to drive demons away from the island. It is believed that being touched by the paantus bring good luck. Although judging from the sight of children crying and running away, it would seem that the sight of mud-covered paantus drive away not just demons but thoughts of good luck as well.

5. Somin-sai

Where: Kokuseki-ji Temple Yamauchi-17 Mizusawaku Kuroishicho Oshu, Iwate
The Festival: Somin-sai, also known as Festival of Naked Men and Fire, dates back to 1,000 years ago. The festival is held in the cold month of February. It draws men from all across Japan who want to take part in this centuries-old ritual believed to bring good health and happiness for the year. The men dressed up in fundoshi or loincloth brave the chilly temperature as they walk from the temple to the icy Ruritsubo River.