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
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