Kishiwada is a town south of Osaka in the Kansai area of Japan, and its Danjiri Matsuri, held every autumn, is one of the most boisterous festivals around. This year the festival falls on September 17-18, so you still have time to go. Here are six reasons why you should book your airfare now:
1) Visually, it looks uh-mazing.
A danjiri is a portable shrine—like a one-car garage smashed atop a medieval oxcart—that's made entirely out of meticulously carved wood. Weighing in at a few tons, it is pulled through the streets by hundreds of people hauling on ropes the girth of a grown man's wrist. The Kishiwada festival boasts 34 danjiri all going at the same time, the teams vying for who can pull the fastest and most recklessly.
2) The danger is real.
At the height of a double decker bus with a base the width of a Camry, the shrine is twice as tall as it is fat. An tremendous split-level roof does its best to makes the thing even more prone to falling over, but that doesn't stop someone from flailing around on the roof as the cart sails through the streets. If a corner is taken too fast, the danjiri could topple, taking crowds, buildings, and telephone poles with it. Kishiwada shops along the route have special danjiri insurance, and people have died in the melee.
3) The fashion is on fleek.
Festival participants (both male and female) wear identical short navy happi coats, fitted white pants with high waists, split-toe ninja shoes, and a rolled-up towel tied around the head like a halo. Though the clothes are old-school, the accessorizing is still modern, making the scene like a Kurosawa film with cell phones and tons of mascara.
4) Drinks are plentiful.
If the thought of all this running makes you thirsty, you'll be happy to know that Japan's open-carry laws apply only to alcoholic beverages, so you can imbibe on the street while watching (or fleeing) danjiri. Beers can be purchased from kiosks along the route or from convenience stores that also sell wine, whisky, and Chu Hi, a canned carbonated cocktail consisting of flavored shochu or vodka that boasts an alcohol content of 9%.
5) The food necessitates sweatpants.
Osaka is known for being the Nation's Kitchen, so festival food in the cities south is guaranteed to be good. Have some Kansai-style okonomiyaki: a savory cabbage pancake made on a griddle from flour, eggs, grated yam, and some kind of protein—pork belly, bacon, squid, octopus. Okonomi means “what you like” and yaki—as in yakitori, yakisoba, takoyaki, every Osakan specialty food yaki, yaki, yaki--fried. Green tea soft serve, fried chicken, and madeline-style cakes are also up for grabs.
6) The atmosphere is primed for friend making.
The Japanese famously have a reputation for being hard working, so when festivals roll around, they really let their hair down. With huge crowds of people giddy on beer and junk food, you're bound to strike up a conversation. Don't let the language barrier intimidate you: when you and the guy next to you narrowly escape being flattened by a 300-year-old shrine on wheels, you'll be instant BFFs.
This is not my video--I was too busy drinking/fleeing--but watch it to get the grand scale of this s%$& show.