From penis festivals to sumo wrestlers making babies cry, we’ve covered some pretty strange ground here, folks. 

The Japanese are known for their eccentricities (and their sumo wrestling). We bring you a somewhat astonishing amalgamation of both. Japan has few festivals, or rather, matsuris, but those they do have, are quite regional, specific and more than likely to seem strange to foreigners. Here’s a compilation of the weirdest of the lot. 


1. Kanamara Matsuri: The Penis Festival

When: April

Where: Kawasaki

Why: This festival’s origins go way back to the 1600s (involving toothed-vaginas), but fundamentally, it’s a celebration of fertility through, well, massive penis floats.

If you don’t mind putting up with a bunch of dicks, the Kanamara Penis Festival in Kawasaki, Japan promises to be a day of naughty fun. The ‘Festival of the Steel Phallus’ is an annual Shinto fertility festival where the penis forms the central theme of the event. Probably not an ideal destination for a day out with your grandmother, this festival is nonetheless a worthy pit-stop if only to witness the jaw-dropping penis floats, rather convincing drag queens, and the penis-shaped lollipops being devoured by the young and the old.

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2. Hadaka Matsuri: The Naked Festival

When: February

Where: Nara

Why: a.) To find good luck. b.) Too much testosterone (presumably).

Hadaka Matsuri or The Naked Festival which is basically a congregation of around 9000 men in just loincloths. The objective of this ceremony is this – the men in the said loincloths are expected to grab a pair of lucky talismans thrown by a priest from the Saidaiji Temple in Okayama. The whole festival is a religious ceremony made fun, where men get to indulge their childish nature by playing a really intense form of a scrum fight. Click here to know more.

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3. Naki Sumo: The Baby Crying Festival

When: May

Where: Sensoji Temple, Tokyo

Why: We have absolutely no idea.

Naki Sumo Mitsuri is one of the strangest festivals we’ve come across so far. Naki Sumo is a baby crying festival, and if you will, competition. It’s a 400-year-old tradition that is said to keep rug-rats in good health. The festival itself involves two sumo wrestlers holding a baby each as a referee puts on grotesque masks in an attempt to make the babies cry. The toddler who cries the longest and loudest is declared the winner. The origin or even the purpose of this festival ranges from unknown to redundant.

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4. Hitori Zumo: The One Person Sumo Festival

When: May and September

Where: Omi Island, Ehime

Why: Simply because they’re Japanese and they can. (Back off, haters.)

A sumo ring is set up on the legendary grounds of Oyamazumi Shrine, where a lone sumo wrestler rises for an epic battle – with air. Or the presumed spirit of the rice plant. The fate of the match will henceforth determine the fate of bumper crops for that year. Watch this worthy sumo wrestler give his all below.


5. Hokkai Heso Matsuri: The Belly Button Festival

When: July

Where: Furano, Hokkaido

Why: It’s a metaphor.

Hokkai Heso Matsuri was conceptualized to bring the good people of Furano together, or rather “to the middle”, very much like our underrated belly buttons. Revelers paint faces on their stomachs and hide their heads under giant hats, making colourful, bizarre and outlandish stomach people who then perform their famous Belly Button Dance during the festival. (Yes, we didn’t think it would get much weirder after the baby crying festival, either.)

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If you’re looking for more quirks, check out our list of the weirdest festivals around the globe!