Photo By: PROlensonjapan
Region
Kansai
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Kobe
Population
5,550,742

Nada no Kenka Fighting Festival

Scantily clad men in an epic battle.

  • Coming up on October 14 and 15! Go on the 15 to witness the violence.
Traditional Japanese fall festivals are held to seek blessings from the gods for a good harvest and good luck for the rest of the year. Typically, mikoshi (portable shrines) and colorful yatai (festival floats) are carried around by townspeople. But what if the shrines and floats were suddenly banged against each other?

Nada no Kenka is a festival where three mikoshi and seven yatai actually battle each other. It’s a unique festival centered around “fighting.” Men and boys, representing different districts, jostle each other with the purpose of breaking those portable shrines.

The festival

Held at Matsubara Hachiman Shrine in Himeji City, in the southern part of Hyogo Prefecture, this two-day yearly event in October culminates in a large wrestling match, where teams bash against each other with portable shrines weighing more than two tons. The winner not only claims the approval of the gods but also bragging rights for the rest of the year.

These fights need to be seen to be believed, with the sounds of drum beats, chanting and the crash of the floats totally obliterating the idea that Japan is a quiet country all the time. The fact is, they know how to party, especially when it comes to traditional events like this — they go all out!

The Nada no Kenka Fighting Festival is held every year on October 14 and 15. On the first day, the decorated floats (representing the districts of Higashiyama, Kiba, Matsubara, Yaka, Mega, Usazi and Nakamura) are taken in the shrine for a special ceremony, where a Shinto priest purifies the floats and the district members. After the blessing, yatai-awase takes place (the floats are bumped into each other), giving the illusion of a float dance.

These fights need to be seen to be believed.

On the second day, the main event takes place, which is the mikoshi fight. There are three portable shrines: the lightest one is carried by men between 16 to 25 years old, the second one is carried by men between 26 and 35 and the heaviest by men above 36. All men are decked out in distinctive headbands and fundoshi (loincloth) according to their age group.

Just like on the first day, the mikoshi are first blessed and purified. After that, the mikoshi-awase (fight of portable shrines) starts. This is where the real action happens — a fight to the bitter end until one of the mikoshi breaks.

Nada no Kenka Fighting Festival

Photo by: Melissa Larkins Battling mikoshi (portable shrines).

Due to the high level of violence of the events, only men aged between 16 to 45 are allowed to carry the floats and shrines. Women and older men are prohibited to participate.

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Things To Know

Dates and details

On October 14, the blessing ceremony for the floats at Matsubara Hachiman Shrine takes place between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The yatai fight takes places in the afternoon. On October 15, the blessing ceremony starts from 9 a.m. until the afternoon. You can see the mikoshi fight from around 1 p.m. and again from 4:30 p.m. In the evening, you can also see the yatai beautifully illuminated. No entry fee.

Safety

There will be a large police presence directing foot traffic. If it’s your first festival like this it’s recommended you stay out of the main square area during the fighting. If you do happen to find yourself in the square during the fighting, follow the direction of the police and be aware of your surroundings.

How To Get There

Address

Japan, 〒672-8023 Hyōgo Prefecture, Himeji, Shirahamacho, 甲396

By train

The easiest way to access this festival is by public transport, as the streets around the shrine will be closed to cars.

From Himeji station, take the local Sanyo line toward Kobe Sannomiya. Get off at Shirahamanomiya station. From here, it’s a short walk to Matsubara Hachiman Shrine.

From Osaka station, take the Special Rapid JR  train to Akashi station. At Akashi, change to the express Sanyo line train bound for Sanyo-Himeji station. At Oshio station, change to the local train bound for Sanyo-Himeji station. Get off at Shirahamanomiya station and walk to Matsubara Hachiman Shrine.

Where To Stay

Porto Di Mare (Adult Only)
  • Tsugi 642-3 Himeji-Shi, Hyogo 672-8004
  • 7.3/10
  • 2.2 km
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Hotel Aston Plaza Himeji
  • Shikama-ku Nakashima 763-1 Himeji-Shi, Hyogo 672-8035
  • 8.1/10
  • 2.3 km
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Hotel neobibi (Adult Only)
  • Shigou-cho Akeda 75-54 Himeji-Shi, Hyogo 671-0245
  • 7.8/10
  • 2.4 km
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Canon Himeji Higashi (Adult Only)
  • Shigo-cho Mino 557 Himeji-Shi, Hyogo 671-0244
  • 2.5 km
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