Everyone loves a good party right? Some mates, a few beers and a good old fashioned bit of tuna throwing – wait what?!
Celebrating is in our blood, from a couple of pints down the local on your birthday to full on dad dancing at your cousin’s wedding – open the bar, bang on some tunes and people will turn up in droves.
But when you get enough people together it stops just being a party. Now you can officially call it a ‘festival’ and when you slap that title on your shindig things can get really weird, really quickly.
“We don’t mean wearing a half-baked fancy dress outfit to the Isle of Wight Festival or getting your top off at Glastonbury, we mean straight up fire-balling, radish-carving, naked-wrestling madness.”
Festivals are the daddy of parties. They’re an excuse to do pretty much anything you can think of in public, as long as you can get enough crazy people to do it with you.
But let’s get things straight, when we say crazy we don’t mean wearing a half baked fancy dress outfit to the Isle of Wight Festival or getting your top off at Glastonbury, we mean straight up fire balling, radish carving, naked wrestling madness. These are the most mental festivals in the world.
1) Hadaka Matsuri – Saidai-ji Eyo, Japan
Are you a dude? Do you love to get naked in public and don’t want to go to jail for it? Then Hadaka Matsuri is for you.
Hadaka Matsuri or the naked man festival, is celebrated annually in loads of different locations across Japan. It seems that in the home of Godzilla the menfolk like little more than getting their kit off and getting as close to each other as possible.
Technically the guys aren’t naked, usually wearing tiny loin cloths called fundoshi to cover their modesty, but there is still a fair bit of flesh on show.
Each different Hadaka celebration has it’s own twist from a very cold dip in the sea at Bungo Takada to the giant man scrum that takes place at Saidai-ji Eyo each year.
In the town of Nara more than 9000 participants and an even bigger crowd flock to the Saidai-ji temple to witness the most awkward wrestling match ever.
Clad in the compulsory tighty-whities men cluster below the temple’s balcony waiting for the chance to catch a couple of 20cm long sticks that are thrown into the sweaty mass of bodies by a priest.
Whoever can grab one of the two sacred shingis, make their way through the fleshy mosh pit and place the stick in a box of rice is supposed to receive a whole year of happiness.
2) Night of the Radishes – Oaxaca, Mexico
Thought this sounds like a trashy horror movie title, the Night of the Radishes is a long held tradition which dates back to 1897.
Every December locals gather to carve master pieces out of the ruddy root vegetable, creating impressive nativity scenes and some pretty epic eagles too:
The festival began when a couple of enterprising store holders at the Oaxaca Christmas fair started carving radishes to attract potential customers.
The idea proved popular and was turned into a formal competition with more than a hundred competitors.
The event has now become a massive tourist attraction with thousands of people attending each year to check out the latest edible sculptures and the city even having to put aside land to grow radishes just for the festival.
Any parents hoping that this festival will put veggies back on the dinner plate should think twice though, because any kid that can get over the thought of munching cute little radish people will definitely be put off by the radish monsters:
3) Las Bolas de Fuego – Nejapa, El Salvador
Ripping moves straight out of Street Fighter, Las Bolas De Fuego encourages the public to hurl fireballs at each other in what must be the world’s most flammable festival.
Every August the community of El Nejapa in El Salvador gathers to to commemorate the volcanic eruption of El Payon in 1658 which threw lava balls all over the place, causing the town to move to its current location.
For the residents of El Nejapa the only logical way to celebrate their town surviving a volcano is to try and set it on fire again by chucking flaming, kerosene soaked rag balls at each other.
The tiny meteors go hurtling down the street setting fire to pretty much anything they touch including the road and other people:
To make this scene even more menacing locals paint up their faces and don balaclavas so the whole thing looks like a scrap between a bunch of Mad Max rejects and some cartoon bank robbers.
The resulting chaos is like a malfunction in Michael Bay’s special effects department. Although if he’d accidentally created something this cool he’d already have filmed it and created his most credible movie yet:
4) Tunarama – Port Lincoln, Australia
It’s official. Nobody loves tuna like the Aussies.
Not content with beating the world at nearly every sport going, the jock nation has even started inventing festivals just so they’ve got a new event to compete in.
As it’s name suggests, Tunarama is a celebration of that tasty brown fish that wiggles its way into lunchtime sarnies, classy restaurants and the odd pasta bake.
The centre piece of this three day festival is the Tuna Toss where fish fans get a chance to see how far they can hurl the meaty marine dweller.
Competitors can use any technique they fancy as long as they don’t step outside the circle and while many opt for a classic hammer toss there are some frankly hilarious attempts that usually end up with the thrower flat on their face.
The current tuna chucking record is around 37 meters which is quite impressive considering that the fish weighs somewhere around 22 pounds – 4 pounds heavier than an official athletics hammer.
Let’s just hope this one never makes it to the Olympics.
5) Onbashira – Lake Suwa, Japan
Some traditions are maintained with almost religious fervour, no matter how ridiculous they seem and Onbashira is no exception.
The festival appears to be some sort of old school extreme sport with huge crowds gathering every six years in the the Lake Suwa area of Nagano, Japan to watch a bunch of nutters play rodeo on a massive tree trunk.
The festival has been going on for more than 12 centuries and is officially supposed to be about symbolically renewing the local shrines, though drunk lumberjacks seems like a much better explanation.
Onbashira takes place over several months and is divided into two main stages, the Yamadashi where giant trees are cut down and dragged down the mountains to to the site and the Satobiki where the poles are raised into place by the shrines (again with crazy log fellers hanging off the end while singing).
The crowd pleasing stuff happens during Yamadashi when the logs reach high drops and steep hills. Looking simultaneously like the world’s worst idea and funniest log flume, young guys who want to prove their manliness jump on board the tree and cling on for dear life as it careens down a hill.
The lumps of wood weigh quite a bit and seconds after launching those not manically hanging on the front are soon diving out of the way in a mess of twisting limbs and bruised faces.
A comedic disregard for health and safety combined with the helping hand of gravity is what makes the festival such a big tourist draw. Not dissimilar to our very own cheese-rolling festival then…
6) Merfest – North Carolina, USA
According to one cartoon crab it’s better down where it’s wetter but some Carolina natives seem to have taken this idea a little too seriously.
Despite Disney’s charming submarine sing-along, most adults leave little mermaids in their own animated world. But there are still plenty of ‘big kids’ that are happy to carry on collecting cutlery and serenading crustaceans.
Luckily for those Peter Pan tax payers, they can keep living their underwater dreams at the North Carolina Merfest where you can dress like a guppy and swim around until your heart’s content.
To get ready for the event, festival goers spend hours painstakingly creating realistic looking fish tails and practising how to swim with two legs stuck together in giant, scaly socks.
Just to really push the Disney boat out the Merfest also welcomes pirates which means that during the event you might find sword fighting and small arms workshops taking place alongside classes in underwater modelling or even a mermaid wedding.
In the spirit of all good cosplay, wannabe mermaids often adopt a ‘mersona’ or personality to go along with their swimsuits and most also have a mertender, usually a loyal partner or good friend who slathers them in coconut oil and helps ease on those tight fitting tails.
Speaking of tails, you might need to find your own hoard of buried treasure before going to Merfest because some of the top models can reach hefty price tags up to £2,500!
7) Moose dropping festival – Talkeetna, Alaska
For all you animal lovers out there don’t worry because it’s not what it sounds like. Nobody’s dropping moose off anything. After all, how would you even pick one up?
This festival starts out like almost any other. They do all the usual stuff, play some tunes, have a parade with floats and sell moose related trinkets. So far so normal right? And that’s when they break out the moose pooh. That’s right, moose pooh, with people’s names on it.
So enamoured of the moose are Talkeetna locals that they actually go round collecting the critter’s dung. Once they have a decent sackful, the addled Alaskans paint them white, scribble their names on the nuggets, hoist them in the air and then drop them on a target from a crane.
The lucky festival folk who’s crap lands the closest wins a cash prize and hopefully a year’s supply of handwash too.
Sadly the moose dropping festival was suspended indefinitely in 2009 after nearly 40 years of falling faeces due to certain unspecified ‘incidents’.
Despite this we’re sure the good people of Talkeetna will invent a suitably outlandish festival again soon. Anyone up for some porcupine pestering or maybe a spot of wolverine wrestling?