In this traditional festival of Ofudamaki, men dress up as women donning lavish kimonos, put on bright makeup and bless the people all around the town for good luck in the coming year.
About 50 kms away from the city of Yokohama, people have been gathering annually to celebrate the festival of Ofudamaki since 1688 when the custom first started. Japan has had a history of cross dressing with traditional kabuki theater as well as modern cos-players adapting the trend. For generations male actors have been dressing as beautiful women to play the female roles in theatre performances.
Although the origins of the festival are quite blurry, there is one story in particular that is believed to be true. The festival is said to have originated in 1688 when a deadly cholera outbreak plagued the town. Mothers gave their old kimonos and clothes to male shinto dancers to wear them and bless the people in hopes of protecting the children and themselves.
Since then, every once a year local men, dressed in kimonos and make-up go around the town chanting stopping in front of houses to chant and release ofuda which are basically good-luck fortunes written on paper strips into the crowd. It is believed that anyone who gets a hold of these papers will be safe from harm for the next year. Talk about taking cross-dressing to the next level!
Given the recent debates all over the world about LGBT rights and activists protesting for equal rights, this event shows how people in the far corners of the world are embracing cross-dressing without fearing any social stigma. Maybe the world can make a note or two from this event and open their minds a bit more.
Japan, ladies and gentlemen, still the award winner for the most unique and eccentric festivals.