In Himeji last week, hundreds of men gathered in fundoshi to risk their lives so they could crash giant portable shrines against each other. Second perhaps only to the infamous Penis Festival in terms of Japan’s craziest event, the Nada no Kenka Matsuri (灘のけんか祭り – Nada’s Fighting Festival) attracts over 100,000 visitors a year and should be on every Japanophile’s bucket list.
The day begins at Matsubara Hachiman Shrine, where each of the seven teams parade their mikoshi (portable shrine) for the crowds, bouncing the heavy wooden structure on their shoulders and racing around the square while trying not to tip over (often unsuccessfully). Afterwards the mikoshi are carried to the main arena and smashed into each other – sometimes injuring and, on a couple of previous occasions, even killing members and spectators that get too close.
Once the crowds are satisfied each team has to make a gruelling trek with their shrines up the nearby steep hill, only to have to carry it back down again after eating dinner and drinking a few beers. When they return to the main arena the night ends with a few adrenalin-fuelled duels as the tired, bruised and aching men are roared on by spectators sat at either side of the narrow valley.