Mounted police officers in Kyoto get Heian Period outfits to match their ancestral colleagues

Though the Heian Period probably evokes more images of poetry and courtly love affairs than daring action, there was still plenty of work for the kebiishi, the peacekeepers of the time. Though the Heian court’s police force is now long gone, they remain a fixture of Japanese police history, and, in fact, served as the inspiration for the new uniforms to be worn by the Kyoto mounted police at this year Jidai Festival!

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Five things you need to know about Obon–one of Japan’s biggest holidays 【Videos & more】

If the idea of your loved ones leaving this earth never to return again seems unfair, then you should consider the Japanese view of the afterlife. While nothing can change death itself, it is comforting to know that in Japan there is a special time of the year when the souls of the dead come back to visit the living. This is called Bon (or Obon using the honorific “o”) a holiday period from August 12-16 (exact dates may vary depending upon location), a time when the entire country takes a break to celebrate the “festival of the dead.” It’s a lively few days when the living and the dead can once again unite to eat together, drink together and share good times.

The Bon tradition gives the country some of the unique dances that Japan is so famous for. Tokushima’s Bon dance, called Awa Odori, for example, draws over one million tourists every year. Traditional Bon entertainment is so lively, colorful and intriguing that a Bon dance is a must-see on every traveler’s itinerary.

Today we’ll introduce you to a five things you should know about Obon. Needless to say, it’s a very exciting time to be in Japan as a tourist!

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Despite raging typhoon, Gion Matsuri goes on as it has for over 1,000 years【Video】

The Gion Festival, or Gion Matsuri, has been celebrated consistently for over a thousand years and is one of the most famous festivals in Japan. The highlight is the Yamahoko Parade which occurs twice, on July 17 and July 24, and our competition winner’s wish was to see it happen with her own eyes here in Japan. This year, with a incoming typhoon, there were rumors swirling about the festival being cancelled, but with hardly any interruptions in its long history, this parade wasn’t about to be stopped by mere weather!
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Nearly 1,000 wind chimes stolen from Chinese festival…of wind chimes

Ah, isn’t it nice to listen to the gentle sound of wind chimes blowing in a light breeze? If you were a recent visitor to the Xiandu Park wind chime festival in China, you may not know what we’re talking about, because almost all of the chimes were stolen, forcing the planned month-long event to close down in less than a week.

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On Sunday 5 April Kanayama Shrine held its annual Kanamara Matsuri, a traditional Japanese festival of Shinto origin that incorporates a phallic parade and has now become quite the tourist magnet. And there were penises everywhere.

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Taiwanese festival tries to put itself on the map, or blow itself up trying【Video】

Anything worth doing in excess is worth overdoing in excess. Or at least that seems to be the motto for this gathering in Taiwan. An entire street is covered in what looks like red scraps of paper, or if you’re feeling more poetic, flower petals. Turns out it’s neither of those things, and as the following video will show, “Boom Boom Pow!”

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Shimotsuki Matsuri: The extraordinary winter festival that inspired Ghibli’s ‘Spirited Away’

Shimotsuki Festival is held every December in the remote mountains of Nagano Prefecture, Japan. But as well as locals, the festival also attracts visitors from farther afield, all ooking for the magic and fantasy of the world of Studio Ghibli.

That’s because this ancient festival, featuring boiling cauldrons and dancing monsters, has an unlikely and little-known claim to fame: it inspired Hayao Miyazaki to make Spirited Away.

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Tasty art brought to life — enjoy unique recreations of illustrated food at the Pixiv Festival!

Some of our readers may be aware of Pixiv, the popular Japanese online community that provides a forum for artists to share and receive feedback on their illustrated works. Well, we certainly think such a community is a meaningful use for the Internet, and now, we’re even more excited to hear that Pixiv will be putting on a real-life festival! It’s the “Pixiv Festival – where drawing is fuuuuuuuuun!!!!!!!!!!!!” scheduled to be held in Roppongi next month, and while the event is sure to provide plenty of opportunity for artistic action, it seems there’ll also be some very interesting food options available as well — yes, you’ll be able to sample dishes that have actually been recreated from illustrations shared on the site, so let’s take a closer look at some of the unique culinary creations that have been brought to life especially for the festival!

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Hassaku Matsuri is a festival in Japan reserved for asking the gods for a bountiful harvest and happy life. It occurs every year during the first day of the eighth lunar month, usually falling during the beginning of September. Just as dialects and traditional foods vary depending on the region, Hassaku Matsuri is celebrated in vastly contrasting ways, especially in Kumamoto, Fukui, and Ibaraki prefectures. From intricate structures made of natural materials to an extremely inappropriate goblin, join us as we explore a few of the many Hassaku traditions in Japan.

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Japan gets skimpy, slippery and wet at “lotion x music” festival

Normally, Shinkiba 1stRING features the physical feats of Japan’s pro-wrestling circuit. The ring is always packed with wrestling fans whenever there is an event, but what happens when there is no wrestling? Partying, obviously! On August 9, with the looming threat of Typhoon 11, people gathered for a one-of-a-kind party in Japan, possibly the first of its kind: a music festival that mixes bumping beats with…clear lube?!?

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Animal rights groups unhappy as “hamster fishing” game spotted at summer festival

Summer festivals all have one thing in common: there’s always a ton of people at them. That also means there are plenty of exciting booths to spend your money at. Besides food stalls, there are some popular carnival-type games that you’ll find at festivals in Japan, most of which are classic games of skill and luck which reward you with a variety of prizes. Perhaps one of the most famous festival games is a goldfish scooping game called kingyo sukui.

This year, however a slightly different “fishing” game was spotted at a summer festival held in Osaka. As you might imagine from a game requiring participants to “fish” for live hamsters, it is certainly generating a wide range of reactions.

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Sumida River Fireworks Festival aftermath: Not everyone in Japan has perfect manners after all

Japanese soccer fans attracted plenty of praise at the World Cup last month when, having watched their team lose to Ivory Coast, they diligently cleaned up their trash from the stadium. Whether you think these supporters’ actions show how important it is to Japanese people to be considerate of others, or just good old-fashioned common sense that applies wherever you are in the world, everyone (well, almost everyone) agreed that taking your rubbish home with you is A Good Thing.

This week, however, Japanese Twitter users have breathed a collective disappointed sigh as photos of the trash left in the streets after the world-famous Sumida River Fireworks Festival show some people in Japan aren’t as super-considerate as we’d like to think. Is Tokyo an exception to the rules? Or is Japan’s reputation as a super-clean nation undeserved?

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LIGHT UP NIPPON 2014 pays tribute to the Great East Japan Earthquake with a booming spectacle

For those affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, three and a half years still might not be enough time separating the event from the present day. Each slight tremble in the earth, any loud alarm can be a painful reminder of all that was lost that afternoon. While the saying goes “time heals all wounds”, a bit of light-hearted fun always helps the process along. On August 11, 2014, on the 3 ½ year mark of the disastrous event, the LIGHT UP NIPPON event will be celebrating in remembrance, as it has for the past four years.

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Tropfest: The world’s largest short-film festival comes to Japan for one day only

Have you heard of Tropfest? For thousands of Australians, the name conjures up images of picnics, green grass and long, warm days that turn into night, bringing out stars like Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush.

It’s the biggest short-film festival in the world, born in a small café in Sydney in 1993 and growing every year, travelling to places like New York, Abu Dhabi and Cape York. This year the outdoor film festival is making its debut in Japan, bringing with it Aussie food stalls and a great selection of film shorts.

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Wow, Japan, is that a giant wooden phallus in your hot springs, or are you just happy to see m–oh. I see. Well, uh, I’ll just be on my way then. Um…maybe one quick photo…

As you are surely already aware, Japan has quite a few unusual, phallic festivals allegedly intended to be fertility rites for couples hoping for children. They’re also great attractions for curious tourists or anyone who wants to try frosted penis-bananas. Iwate Prefecture, perhaps not wanting to be left out, has a phallus festival of its own. Its standout feature? The phallus riding event! And, great news, ladies, they’re taking applications!

(Before clicking below, use your best judgement about whether or not this is something you should be reading at work.)

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It’s that time of year again! Spring is in the air, the cherry blossoms are blooming, and everyone’s feeling a little bit randy. What better way to celebrate life than with the Kanamara Matsuri, better known as the Penis Festival, to be held on April 6th from 11am to 6pm.

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Every year on 15 March in Komaki City, Aichi the Honen Matsuri (Harvest Festival) is held. Unlike other harvest festivals this one is to celebrate all forms bounty from crops to cash to family.

Also unlike other harvest festivals, this one has a 2.5m wooden phallus that gets paraded through the city during the afternoon. It’s called “Ooowasegata” (lit. big guy stem figure) and this year it drew a crowd of 190,000 spectators according to a Tagata Shrine announcement.

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Halfway to adulthood: New Japanese festival for 10-year-olds gets parents talking

Japanese children enjoy many rite-of-passage celebration and age-specific holidays. This week it was Girls’ Day (hina matsuri) on March 3rd; next up in May will be Children’s Day (kodomo no hi). Another children’s holiday comes along in November: shichi-go-san, for children who have turned 3, 5 or 7 that year.

Once Japanese young adults turn 20, they have a special holiday to celebrate the beginning of adulthood, too. Coming of Age Day (seijin no hi) celebrates those who have reached the Japanese age of majority by turning 20 the previous year. And now growing in popularity is the “halfway to adulthood” festival, held when a child is 10 years old.

So what is this new(ish) celebration, where did it come from, and what does its burgeoning popularity tell us about Japan today?

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Why stare at fireworks way out in the sky? In Yanshui they’ll shoot them right in your face

Have you ever watched the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan and thought to yourself: “Man, that looks like one hell of a party”? If your answer is yes, then you might want to check out the annual Yanshui Fireworks Festival in Taiwan every February.

The event has gained notoriety for not only shooting its fireworks into the sky, but also directly at the faces of people watching them. Although such interactivity makes this the next level in fireworks displays, this festival actually dates back nearly two centuries.

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Cosplayers pose, perform, and get a suntan at Singapore’s cosplay festival 【Photos】

Over the weekend, I stopped by the End of Year Cosplay Festival (EOY) held at Marina Barrage in Singapore. Although I love anime, I’ve never been to an anime convention or cosplay festival for one simple reason: I hate crowds. But this time around I had a friend, who coincidentally is a cosplay photographer, to show me the ropes of treading through a people-packed cosfest, so I braved the crowds to bring you guys (and girls) some fabulous cosplay photos!

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