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Hadaka Matsuri: Naked Festival In Japan

August 21st, 2008 by

Hadaka Matsuri doesn’t mean “No Worries”. It literally means, “Naked Festival”. Every year for thousands of Japanese men, it means suffering the winter cold with minimal covering for a chance of good fortune. And for the one man chosen to absorb the sins of the other revelers through touch, it means “all worries”.

It should come to no surprise that Japan, a country of high technology and fashion, has rituals involving men wearing only loincloths (fundoshi in Japanese). Don’t forget that the national sport of the Land of the Rising Sun is Sumo, a wrestling match between two oversized men in the buttocks-revealing strips of cloth. Of course, it’s not uncommon for a few individuals to be crushed unconscious when thousands of their barely-covered brethren get out of control.

Video courtesy of Gimmeabreakman

Hadaka Matsuri is a shinto tradition dating back 1,200 years, a form of ritual purification during the lunar new year. The most famous of these naked festivals occur in Inazawa City, Aichi prefecture near Nagoya, on the south-central coast of Honshu Island. Here, a shin-otoko, or chosen one, is selected from a crowd and purified by being isolated inside the shrine for 3 days, with nothing to eat but water and rice gruel. He is then shorn of all body hair (though he is allowed to keep his eyebrows), and is presented with a 4-ton rice cake (mochi) before being released to the waiting crowd outside. The mob attempts to touch him, as this is thought to bring good fortune. Not such luck for the shin-otoko, as he inevitably ends up bruised and battered. Other naked festivals in Japan have temple priests throwing a pair of wooden sticks (shingi) from a window, and whomever gets one and sticks it up a bowl full of rice can receive a year’s worth of blessing.

The crowd themselves start assembling since early morning, enduring the freezing cold by running laps, jumping up and down, and drinking heated sake. Some carry long bamboos with messages attached to them to represent the men who weren’t able to make it to the festivities. Many of these participants are 23 and 42 years of age, which are considered unlucky and thus of need to unload their sins onto the shin-otoko. All these men have to contend with a contingency of bodyguards surrounding the shin-otoko, who douse overenthusiastic revelers with cold water. Touching the shin-otoko is believed to transfer the sins of the person to him, a ceremonial transference of ills that occur in other communities all over the world. By 3 o’clock the next morning, the weary shin-otoko is chased by the priests from the shrine and the huge rice cake presented earlier is distributed among the attendees.

Recent Hadaka Matsuris have become increasingly violent, especially with the participation of mob figures. For this reason, the temple priests have banned tattooed-individuals from joining the festivities. If you wish to partake in next year’s Naked Festival in Inazawa, it takes place on the 13th day of the lunar new year. From Nagoya Station, take either the Gifu-bound Meitetsu line to Konomiya Station (head out the north exit, walk 3 minutes), or the JR Tokaido line to Inazawa Station (15 minutes). There are several other Hadaka Matsuris all over Japan for you to watch, such as the Aoshima Hadaka Mairi Festival in Miyazaki City on the island of Kyushu, the Dontosai Festival at the Osaki Hachiman Shrine in the city of Sendai, and the DoyaDoya festival hosted by Shitennoji Temple in Osaka.

Here is another Hadaka Matsuri video held in Okayama this 2008:

Video courtesy of hamsterhavoc

One Response to “Hadaka Matsuri: Naked Festival In Japan”

  1. Kitci Wong Says:

    I think I’ve seen a feature on this festival on TV. This is really interesting! :)

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