5 Terrifying Festivals You Won't Believe Are Legal
Presents, food, quality time with family -- it's all bullshit. When you really want to celebrate a holiday (we're talking irresponsible and dangerous new ways of partying; we're talking celebrating so hard that it'll wind up costing you jobs in the future; we're talking frolicking that will make you walk funny for the rest of the year), you need to ditch those loser events like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and National Duck Day. If you want a real party, a party so awesome, it stops being awesome and starts being more like a violent, bloody war on the concept of fun, well, friend, look no further than ...
Dosojin Matsuri -- Get Drunk and Commit Arson for Religion
Held every January 15, Dosojin Matsuri starts with villagers in Nozawa Onsen, Japan, building a 60-foot fort on the edge of town. Isn't that nice? For once they're celebrating by building something, rather than tearing it down in a drunken rage. Then the villagers see how quickly they can replace their blood with sake, light up some torches, and start a-marchin'. Their goal is to take that beautiful building they literally just constructed and make that motherfucker burn.
"Burn the fort! Burn ourselves! Burn the snow! Burn the air!"
Standing in their way is a group of 25-year-old men with sticks. Why 25? Because that's the age where boys become men -- so why not have them prove it by facing down the entire rest of the village, who have suddenly been possessed by drunken pyromancers?
And so the battle is joined: Alcohol-fueled villagers swing their torches at the increasingly nervous guards, who try to stave off fiery destruction for as long as possible. And not just because they really like new construction (it's the sign of a booming economy!): See, there are a bunch of 42-year-old men at the top of the shrine. They must be 42 because, in Japanese, 42 translates to shi ni, which alternately means "to die." Their goal is to symbolically cheat death by escaping the burning building before it goes up, which is somewhat arrogantly assuming that they won't die in the ensuing blaze.
The fort includes an escape ladder. The ladder is not fireproof.
Afterward, if the 25-year-olds do their jobs well and protect the building, the villagers celebrate by ... torching the shrine anyhow. This is symbolic of the futility of preserving a legacy in an ever-shifting world where nothing lasts forever.
Nah, just screwing with you: It's because fire is awesome and everybody's drunk as hell.
Gotmar Mela -- Throw Stones at Each Other's Heads
An ancient Indian legend tells of two lovers from rival villages who eloped against the will of their elders. In response, both villages, being populated exclusively by the exact same type of dickheads, ended up throwing rocks at each other. Eventually they ran out of rocks or something and reluctantly came to a truce, allowing the marriage to happen. These dickheads bred for many generations and had dickhead babies, and now participants in the Gotmar Mela chuck rocks at one another until they're too unconscious to chuck rocks at one another anymore.
On paper, the festival is somewhat akin to a game of capture the flag liberally spiced with severe bodily injury -- everybody scrambles to climb a tree, grab the flag, and score the victory for their team. In practice, however, it's just a giant drunken (liquor is involved?! Whaaaa-?) rock fight.
Remarkably, liquor improves their aim.
Oh, and it has to be stones, as authorities learned in 2001. In an attempt to keep everyone from killing one another, they replaced the rocks with rubber balls. Naturally, nobody used them, because it's really hard to stone a man to death without any stones. Then, in 2009, sick of the hundreds of injuries sustained every year, not to mention the occasional death, the local government banned the festival outright. This lasted exactly one year, until the internal build-up of not having brained a dude with a rock in the last 12 months became too much for ordinary folks to endure. The festival resumed and continues to this day, as do the horrible injuries. In 2013, over 250 people were hurt. The year before that hosted 320 injuries. 2011? Over 600 hurt.
The knock-'em-off-the-bridge segment caused extra casualties.
We're not sure if the festival is getting safer year by year or if the hardest rock throwers are dying off in rock-throwing-related accidents.
Toro Jubilo -- Torture a Bull With Fire and Then Kill It, You Bastard
"Toro jubilo" is Spanish for "jubilant bull," although we're guessing the bulls of the world would call mierda on that, since the festival revolves around setting them on fire.
If you're burdened with something resembling a soul or a basic sense of empathy, go ahead and skip this entry. If you're way intrigued by this whole "setting animals on fire" thing, well, we've got good news and bad news for you. The bad news is the watch list you're almost certainly now on. The good news is that, every November in the little Spanish town of Medinaceli, Toro Jubilo sees an entire village dragging a bull into the center of town, strapping turpentine-and-sulfur-soaked torches to its head, lighting the damn thing ablaze, and cutting the now incredibly panicked bull loose to dance for their pleasure. Oh, and they smother the poor beast with a thick layer of mud first, preventing the flames from spreading to the rest of the body. After all, that would be cruel.
... to those who prefer their beef rare.
But in an attempt to make up for even that very slight mercy, the townsfolk proceed to torture the bull psychologically as well. They run around it, yell at it, wave capes in its face, and grab its tail -- which, we admit, seems like the least of its problems.
Really, they distract the bull from the flames. How brave and merciful!
Once the bull's torches burn out, the festival-goers set off hundreds of fireworks, because fireworks are like an exclamation point for life. Happy, sad, enthusiastic, terrified -- the exclamation point does not care about context; it's just there to make things loud and annoying.
Que en paz descanso, senor toro!
But at least the villagers eat the bull after all is said and done. You know: Waste not, want not. We assume they use all of that unnecessary manufactured terror to power some sort of furious spirit generator that, God willing, will one day explode in their faces like the end of Ghostbusters.
Suwa Onbashira -- Get Crushed Under a Giant Uncontrollable Log
Held once every six years in the forest hills near Nagano, Japan, the Onbashira festival is basically a landlocked Splash Mountain for the suicidal. Although it's technically about placing sacred pillars around an ancient Shinto shrine, the festival's true appeal lies in riding multi-ton trees down steep-ass hills, knowing full well your bones could wind up crushed into a fine powder should you fall the wrong way. Or the right way. Or pretty much any way.
Especially that way.
Onbashira is divided into two parts, one just as deadly as the other. The first part, Kiotoshi, involves manually transporting logs from the forest to the shrine. When they encounter a hill too steep for dragging, a group of fantastically, enthusiastically suicidal idiots will ride the pillars down the hill at breakneck speed, because ... does TV suck in Japan, or something? We have no idea.
This stage creates okonomiyaki, or Japanese pancakes.
The second part, Tata Onbashira, sees the fortunate survivors raising the pillar into its post while standing on it the entire time, like they're claiming the forest spirit's erection for Japan.
Injury here is as easy as falling off a log.
Deaths are common: During the most recent Onbashira in 2010, at least two people were obliterated, while 2004 boasted no fewer than 135 participants with notable injuries, including pelvic and cervical spine fractures.
Such tragedy has forced the Nagano authorities to ... do absolutely dick. In fact, they welcome the risk, claiming that the most dangerous positions (usually in front) bestow more honor and respect. And don't expect Onbashira to go away anytime soon, even if 2016 brings hundreds of deaths and thousands of horrific injuries. This festival has gone on for over 1,200 years completely uninterrupted, after all. If it didn't stop for World War II, it ain't gonna stop because some hippies don't want to see the corpse of the forest mocked so fiercely, or some lame families wish their dumb ol' relatives were still stupid alive.
Clearly, the bitchin' log ride is what's important here.
Takeuchi -- Get Beaten to a Bloody Pulp With Giant Bamboo Sticks
"Takeuchi" literally translates to "bamboo battle," and "bamboo battle" literally translates to a battle with friggin' bamboo. Takeuchi is not a place for your pansy figurative language, college boy.
Described as "half street brawl, half war game," every February 15 a couple hundred citizens of Rokugo, Japan, divvy up into North and South, get hammered, and take the flimsiest excuse to beat the quivering crap out of their friends and neighbors with 20-foot bamboo poles.
They wear helmets, so be sure to hit nowhere but the head.
In true Japanese fashion, even getting drunk and bashing each other's brains in with giant sticks is an organized affair. Takeuchi is divided into three rounds, the first two being your average, run-of-the-mill pole battles (you know how those go), but the third round is where the true madness kicks in. The folks in charge, as laughable as the concept of anybody being "in charge" of the Great Outdoor Stick Fight might be, light a giant bonfire, and the participants dip their sticks in and resume whacking each other with gigantic bendy torch-whips. At least until the fires go out and they resort to fisticuffs, which of course happens often.
Forestry, fighting, fire ... it's the festival trifecta!
After the flames and fists have subsided, the judges declare a winner. Yes, of course there are judges. And yes, of course they're drunk, too. According to tradition, if the North team wins, the rice harvest will be good that year. If the South wins, then the price of rice will go up. Some years, both happen simultaneously, which we assume results in a lightning round with literal lightning.
Related Reading: For some violent festivals you won't believe are real, click here. Explosive sledgehammer day should be every day. And if you want to feel like a video game character, try this fireball festival. Ready for some city-wide parties? Click here.
Cracked's favorite festival is the pocket film festival. Watch it!