Ja­pan FES­TI­VAL MUST-SEE: KARATSU KUNCHI DID YOU KNOW

Also called the “Fes­ti­val of the Iron Phal­lus”, this cel­e­bra­tion of fer­til­ity and re­pro­duc­tion sees sev­eral large pe­nis-shaped por­ta­ble shrines car­ried around the city of Kawasaki. There are phal­lic lol­lipops, sculp­tures and sou­venirs up for grabs

Asian Geographic - - East Asia -

Des­ig­nated an “Im­por­tant In­tan­gi­ble Folk Cul­tural Prop­erty of Ja­pan”, this au­tumn fes­ti­val dates back to 1819 and fea­tures a race of 14 floats, called hikiyama, all of which are des­ig­nated cul­tural trea­sures of over 100 years old. The sleepy Karatsu-jinja Shrine is packed with over half a mil­lion vis­i­tors for the three days of the fes­ti­val, one of Kyushu’s big­gest.

The hikiyama are made of lac­quered bam­boo or pa­per and gilded with gold and sil­ver leaf, and in­clude red and blue li­ons, a killer whale, a samu­rai hel­met, and a sea bream. They can weigh up to five tonnes, and the largest is up to 6.8 me­tres tall. Each float is made and main­tained by one of 14 se­lected dis­tricts in the city, and float bear­ers are cho­sen ex­clu­sively from their re­spec­tive dis­tricts.

On the first night of the fes­ti­val, the floats are lit with lanterns and pa­raded through the streets. The fol­low­ing day, they are pulled from the Karatsu-jinja Shrine to a tem­po­rary shine on the beach, called otabisho. Ac­com­pa­nied by shouts of en­cour­age­ment, 300-odd float bear­ers gather to pull the mas­sive floats through the sand, ac­com­pa­nied by taiko drums and flutes. This rit­ual rep­re­sents the re­turn of the de­ity in the shrine to its birth­place on the beach.

Pray­ers for the town’s pros­per­ity are made and the com­mu­nity gives thanks for a good har­vest that year. On the fi­nal day, the floats are again pa­raded through town, with each float re­turned to the district that it orig­i­nated from.

This au­tumn fes­ti­val dates back to 1819 and fea­tures a race of 14 floats, called hikiyama KANAMARA MATSURI

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