May Photo Opportunity: Japanese Warriors on Parade

Mounted Samurai at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival
Close-up of mounted Samurai at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival(© LifeYouTV)

Odawara’s Hojo Godai Festival, held in early May, is an annual festival commemorating the five generations of the Hojo clan of Japan’s ‘Warring States’ period (Sengoku Jidai). This festival is a great place to capture photos of actors dressed as traditional Japanese warriors.

Samurai procession leaving Odawara Castle
Samurai procession leaving Odawara Castle during the Hojo Godai Festival in Odawara, Japan

The main event of the Odawara Hojo Godai Matsuri (festival) is the samurai warriors’ procession (musha gyoretsu), which proceeds from Odawara castle through the main streets of the city. The parade of nearly 2,000 people dressed as warrior troops (Musha-tai), cavalry (Kiba-tai), and gun troop (Teppo-tai) offers photographers a chance to capture a flavor of Japanese martial history.

Japanese warriors firing muskets at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival
Japanese warriors firing muskets at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival

Lending a lighter touch, following the warrior procession are ceremonial floats (mikoshi), and civilians performing the Lantern Dance (Chochin Odori), baton twirlers, and brass bands from the city’s junior high schools.

Mikoshi procession at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival
Mikoshi procession at Odawara Hojo Godai Festival (© bartman905)

April/May Photo Opportunity: The Spectacular Elephants of Thrissur Pooram

Thrissur Pooram Festival, India
Large crowd at the Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival

Amongst India’s numerous vibrant festivals, one of the most spectacular is Kerala’s annual Thrissur Pooram festival. A photographer’s dream, the festival takes place on the Pooram day of the Malayalam month of Medom (this usually falls between April and May).

Mahouts on elephants at Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival
Mahouts on decorated elephants at Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival

The main attraction of the festival is the colorfully costumed elephants parading through town on their way to the Vadakkunnathan temple.

Mahouts on elephants at Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival
Mahouts and elephants parading through the town

The elephants are all beautifully decorated with golden headdresses, decorative bells and ornaments, palm leaves and peacock feathers. Each elephant is guided by his rider (mahout), whose costume is equally colorful.

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The mahout of each elephant carries an ornate parasol during their parade through town. When the elephants and their riders reach the temple, the mahouts pass their parasols amongst themselves, some while standing on their elephant’s back.

Crowds at the Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival
Crowds at the Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival

The festival’s activities are rounded off with folk dancing, drumming, and a spectacularly huge fireworks display that begins at 3 o’clock in the morning.

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Any photographer visiting India during Thrissur Pooram should definitely include Thrissur in their itinerary. While the crowds are huge and boisterous, you should be able to get some very memorable photos of the incredible elephants.

Unusual April Photo Opportunity: Japan’s Penis Festival

If you’re looking for a truly different photo opportunity, you might consider attending this unusual Japanese festival where revelers carry gigantic phalluses through the streets of a Japanese city.

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Photo by Takanori / CC-BY

The Kanamara Matsuri (“Festival of the Steel Phallus”) – also called the ‘Penis Festival’, is a Shinto fertility festival held on the first Sunday of April in Kawasaki, Japan. The festivities start at Kawasaki’s Kanayama Shrine.

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Photo by Guilhem Vellut / CC-BY

The highlight of the celebration is when the gigantic phalluses are carried out of the shrine on portable shrines (mikoshi) and paraded throughout the streets. Capturing a good photo isn’t easy as you’ll have to contend with crowds of onlookers.

Parade at Penis festival, Kawasaki
Parade at Penis festival, at Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki

Photo by Guilhem Vellut / CC-BY

During the event, penis-themed souvenirs ranging from penis-shaped lollipops and chocolates, to pens, key chains and more, are on sale.

Penis candles
Penis candles sold at a stand at the Kanamara Festival

Photo by Masayuki Kawagishi / CC-BY

What might seem as an outlandish display of sexuality is actually a very family-friendly affair. The crowd is full of people taking snapshots, so you don’t need to feel self-conscious taking photos.

Penis Festival @ Kanamara Festival @ Kanayama Shrine @ Kawasaki
Woman having photo taken on wooden phallus by friend

Photo by Guilhem Vellut / CC-BY