10 Bizarre Festivals of Asia
Phuket Vegetarian Festival – Phuket, Thailand
If you think the Phuket Vegetarian Festival sounds bland, you might just be missing out on the most flavorful event the world has ever known. What sounds like a humble Taoist tradition to abstain from eating meat, also happens to feature amazing performances like fire walking and unbelievable displays of face piercing.
Konaki Sumo – Japan
If you thought a bunch of rotund men in diapers pushing each other out of a ring was weird, wait until you hear about Konaki Sumo, or the Crying Sumo Festival. More than 200 unsuspecting babies are handed off to Sumo Wrestling students who face off to see who’s baby cries first. It’s not as cruel as it sounds… it’s to wish for good health of the children since it’s thought that babies who cry often grow up to be strong.
Holi Festival – India
Holi, a popular Hindu spring festival, is also known as the Festival of Colors since it is celebrated by people throwing colored powered and water at each other. The Holi celebration starts with bonfires which represent the burning of Holika, part of a story about good overcoming evil in the Hindu religion. However the really fun part of Holi is the following day, Dhuleti where Indian people young and old from all walks of life come together to sing, dance and smear each other with color.
Boryeong Mud Festival – South Korea
The Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea is a recent tradition started in 1998 as a way to promote the skincare benefits of the mineral rich mud found in Boryeong. The event draws tourists from all over the world, many of whom could care less about the skin care benefits and just want to have a week of sticky fun. During the week people can participate in events like mud wrestling, mud sliding and photo contests. When you’re ready to clean up you can pick up some of Boryeoungs famous mud products like mudpacks, mud shampoo, mud soap and mud sun block.
Songkran Festival – Thailand
If the Mud Fest left you feeling icky, you’ll find the Songkran Festival in Thailand quite refreshing. Taking place during April, Thailand’s hottest month, Songkran is the essentially world’s biggest water fight. Friends and strangers splash each other with hoses, water balloons and even water guns. Originally the sprinkling of water was more ceremonial, but it’s since become a wet and wild celebration that lasts 3-10 days, depending on what part of Thailand you’re in.
Festival of the Hungry Ghosts – China
Yue Lan or Festival of the Hungry Ghosts marks the day when Chinese people believe that a door to the underworld is opened allowing restless spirits to wander the earth. To appease the spirits people burn fake money and paper representations of items like cars or houses as a way to pass these comforts on to the other world. During the 2-3 days of the festival streets are lit up with paper lanterns and incense to keep ghosts at bay, and in some areas fireworks are displayed for the spirits.
Kanamara Matsuri – Kawasaki, Japan
Even the most open minded tourists would blush at seeing the people of Kawasaki parade through the streets carrying giant penis statues while folks, young and old, suck on penis and vagina shaped candy. Kanamara Matsuri, or Festival of the Steel Phallus, is a Shinto festival that takes place on the first Sunday in April every year in Kawasaki, Japan. The festival is based on an old legend about a sharp toothed demon that hid inside the vagina of a young girl. The demon was defeated by a black smith who created a steel penis that broke its teeth. The festival is meant to promote sexual health. Traditionally Geishas would attend the festival and pray for protection against STDs, and in modern times the festival raises money for HIV research.
Parade of the God of Medicine – Taiwan
More than 160 temples in Taiwan celebrate the God of Medicine with a Parade, but the place to be is the Temple of Ching Tzu in Hseuhchia. Dancers, priests and musicians travel the streets with floats featuring legendary figures like the Medicine God, headed by a group called the Centipedes. Worshippers throw themselves on the ground in front of the Centipedes to be trampled in hopes that they will exorcises evil spirits.
Hadaka Matsuri – Japan
If the Festival of the Steel Phallus didn’t scare you off, then you won’t even bat an eye at the Naked Man Festival. Another Shinto tradition from Japan, thousands of men gather for the Hadaka Matsuri wearing traditional Japanese loin cloths called fundoshi. Among them, one man is completely naked and it’s considered lucky to touch him as he is said to absorb your bad luck and evil deeds.
Monkey Buffet Festival – Lopburi Province, Thailand
No, we’re not monkeying around. There really is a festival just for monkeys every year in Thailand. On the last Sunday in November at the Pra Prang Sam Yot temple in Lopburi province, north of Bagkok, thousands of pounds of fruit is gathered for a huge buffet just for monkeys. The macaque monkeys are surprisingly mild mannered (although mischievous) and hang out with tourists and photographers while they eat fruit and throw back soft drinks.