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Keeping Bad Luck at Bay in the (Nearly) Naked Festival (Video)

A horde of men clad in fundoshi loincloths jostles through the streets in the Kōnomiya Hadaka Matsuri (Naked Festival) associated with Owari Ōkunitama Shrine in Inazawa, Aichi Prefecture, on February 28, 2018. The festival takes its Kōnomiya name from the popular appellation for the shrine. One participant is chosen as the “sacred man” to carry all the bad luck, and the others attempt to touch h…

Bean-Flinging Ceremony Draws Crowds to Kyoto Shrine (Video)

Gorgeously dressed geiko and maiko throw packets of beans to the crowd at Kyoto’s Yasaka Shrine as part of Setsubun celebrations on February 2, 2018. A ceremonial dance performance preceded the throwing ritual, and together they formed a prayer for protection from misfortune over the year ahead. (© Jiji)

Ogres Beware: Shrine Prepares for Setsubun Bean Throwing (Japan in Photos)

Visitors to Mitsumine Shrine in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture, don happi coats and stir soybeans with bamboo brooms as they roast in a metal cauldron. The shrine will make around 400 kilograms of beans, known as fukumame, over two days in preparation for mamemaki, or bean throwing, held on setsubun on February 3. Scattering roasted soybeans is thought to drive out malevolent spirits and ensure …

Tori no Ichi Market Offers Auspicious Rakes (Japan in Photos)

Displays at the Tori no Ichi Market at Hanazono Shrine in Shinjku, Tokyo. The market is known for its lucky kumade rakes for “raking in” good fortune.

Cross-Dressing Couple Marry in Century-Old Harvest Festival (Japan in Photos)

Children carrying pine torches escort a couple in a traditional mujina no mukasari harvest ritual in Murayama, Yamagata Prefecture, on November 12, 2017. Dating back more than 100 years, the ceremony sees the bride and groom swap places in a mock wedding to ensure the success of crops and bring prosperity in the year to come. The cross-dressing nuptials are centered on the mujina, or badger, w…

Do the Cat Dance: A Growing Tradition Attracts 20,000 “Purrformers” (Japan in Photos)

Performers with feline ears and whiskers take part in a cat dance in Kannami, Shizuoka Prefecture on October 9, 2017. The celebration, based on a local legend, has been running for 30 years. The dance took place in the town’s central shopping area for the first time and drew an estimated 20,000 participants. (© Jiji)

Keeping Cool at the “Water-Splashing Festival” (Japan in Photos)

Participants carrying a portable shrine get drenched in Tokyo’s Fukagawa Hachiman Festival on August 13, 2017. The liberal dousing of teams with water by spectators is all part of the traditional summer fun at this event, also known as the mizukake matsuri (water-splashing festival). It continues until August 15. (© Jiji)

Flowers Bloom over Tokyo’s Sumida River (Japan in Photos)

Rain failed to dampen the excitement of the Sumida River Fireworks, Tokyo’s largest display, which took place on Saturday, July 29. Massive crowds gathered along the banks of the river watched as around 20,000 fireworks boomed, sparkled, and cascaded overhead. (© Jiji)

Golden Wishes for the Star Festival (Japan in Photos)

A bamboo branch laden with golden tanzaku decorates the interior of Ginza Tanaka, a seller of precious metal accessories in Tokyo’s Ginza district, on July 5, 2017. In the run-up to tanabata, the shop went a step further in observing the star festival tradition of wish making by providing customers gold-leafed strips of paper to write their hopes and dreams on. (© Jiji)

A Blazing Vernal Rite: Nara’s Tōdaiji Celebrates Omizutori Festival (Japan in Photos)

A time-lapse photo captures the course of monks as parishioners carry kagotaimatsu (pine torches) along the corridors of the Nigatsudō of Tōdaiji in Nara Prefecture in the late hours of March 12, 2017. The Omizutori, or “water-drawing” festival, is part of Shunie, a series of spring rites held each year from March 1–14. Sparks from the torches are thought to drive away malicious forces and ens…

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