- Personally, I take any excuse to party naked.
Photo by Michael Busch on Unsplash
Thousands braved the highways on the 15th for the annual ‘Naked Festival,’ or Hadaka Matsuri. The Hadaka Matsuri is a wild and loud festival held every year on the third Saturday of February at the Saidaiji Kannonin Temple in Japan.
There are about 10,000 or so male participants (there aren’t female participants in the festival- it’s run by men) wear minimal clothing. Usually, they wear a Japanese loincloth called ‘fundoshi’ and a pair of white socks called ‘tabi.’ The festival, which celebrates the blessings of a bountiful harvest (as well as prosperity and fertility), starts around 3:20 p.m. local time.
What Do They Do?
In the evening, the men spend an hour or two running around the temple grounds in preparation and purify themselves with cold water, before cramming themselves into the main temple building. After an hour or two of running in the temple, everyone crams into the main building. The lights go out at 10 p.m., a priest throws 100 bundles of twigs and two lucky 20-centimeter-long shingi sticks into the crowd from a window four meters above. This is when the commotion begins.
10,000 men cram into a room like sardines in a can. They fight for one of the bundles of sticks. Whoever succeeds is guaranteed a year of good fortune, according to legend. The whole thing lasts 30 minutes and participants usually emerge with a few cuts, bruises, and sprained joints. Visitors come from all across Japan and a few from abroad to take part. Some attend the event alone, but many participants join as part of teams representing local businesses.
The festival evolved from a ritual that started 500 years ago, during the Muromachi Period (1333-1573). The villagers competed to grab paper talismans, which were given out by a priest at the Temple. More and more villagers wanted those lucky talismans and the ritual grew in size. However, they realized that the paper would rip when people fought for it. The ritual was also performed fully clothed, but they felt that the clothes got in the way.
They designated as an ‘Important Intangible Folk Cultural Asset’ in 2016. It’s actually one of several ‘naked festivals’ they hold throughout Japan. Another they hold in Yotsukaido. Men in loincloths fight and carry kids through the mud as a method of exorcism. Before the Okayama event, there is an afternoon of traditional dances. Then they hold a performance by a troupe of female drummers, this afternoon is the only festivities that the women participate in.