46. Gangara Fire FestivalA fire prevention festival in Osaka that involves lighting giant 100 kilogram (220 pound) torches and racing them wildly through town.
47. Hadaka Matsuri in OkayamaThe Hadaka Matsuri (Naked Festival) has gained much international attention. There's a great deal of misinformation printed about the Hadaka Matsuri. If you decide to attend this festival it's important to read up on the meaning of its ceremonies.
The Hadaka Matsuri in Okayama is just one of many naked festivals in Japan. However, the Okayama festival is the original. About 9,000 men (dressed in fundoshi loincloths) participate each year. One man is selected as the "naked man". This is a great honor. The naked man is blessed and his entire body is shaved. Then all 9,000 participants chase him through the streets trying to touch him. The festival originated in a time of plague in the region. It's thought that touching the naked man frees you of disease and other evils (the naked man absorbs evil).
The naked man is always injured and usually ends up losing consciousness. After a while he is dressed and kicked out of town (to rid the town of the evil).
The Hadaka Matsuri is a 500 year old tradition. If you decide to attend it's important to have respect for the cultural aspects of the festival. It's also important to know that the festival is dangerous: participants have died. The yakuza participates. In the past yakuza have been blamed for violent incidents at the festival. The festival's Japanese website advises participants not to punch, kick or choke each other.
48. Toka Ebisu Festival in OsakaA million people flock to Imamiya Ebisu Shrine in Osaka to pray for good business January 9th ~ 11th. The festival features a lively market for Fukusasa (bamboo branches decorated with lucky items such as maneki cats).
49. Lake Shikotsu Ice FestivalLake Shikotsu is deep — it has an average depth of 265 meters (869 feet). Its depth prevents it from freezing in the winter. On the Northern island of Hokkaido, this is a novelty because it's the only lake that doesn't freeze.
The Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival is one of many ice and snow festivals in the region. Its snow and ice sculptures are unremarkable — but the festival has the best lighting of any winter festival in Japan.
50. Asahikawa Winter FestivalThe Asahikawa Winter Festival features the largest snow sculptures in Japan. It also features some incredible ice sculptures and thousands of snowmen. It happens at the same time as the nearby Sapporo Snow Festival. The Asahikawa festival is much less crowded (and almost as good).