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.
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.
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.
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.