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Some Interesting Facts About The Naked Man Festival In Japan

By: Pinki Wed, 06 June 2018 11:53:36

Some Interesting Facts About The Naked Man Festival in Japan

When one of my fellow ALTs in a nearby prefecture invited me to watch the Hadaka Matsuri in Okayama prefecture in February, I said, “what’s that?”

Maybe you can imagine how quickly I said YES when he said it was a festival where 9,000 men wear fundoshi (basically a loincloth) and run around in a temple chasing sticks.

Hadaka Matsuri (translated into “Naked Man Festival“) is a festival over 500 years old held at Saidaiji Temple in Okayama City. It’s billed as “one of the most eccentric festivals in Japan“. (I think the Penis Festival takes top place.) It began with priests throwing paper talismans which participants fought over for good luck, and evolved into today’s festival with thousands and thousands of participants who fight tooth and nail for little bundles of blessed sticks that a priest throws down onto them. The bundles of sticks are called shingi, and there’s a few decoy/smaller sets thrown plus a big real one with incense inside – that’s the big winner, though the small ones are lucky too.

This festival is no joke. A guy died in it last year! You have to try to picture 9,000 men all smashing into each other trying to get closer to where the priest throws the sticks. Then if a guy is lucky enough to get one, he has to make it out through the rest of the guys to the main gate, without getting his ass beat and stick stolen. It’s not easy.

Some guys came out looking like pros – they were wearing their fundoshi but also put on elbow and knee guards. After seeing my one of my friends covered in road rash from being dragged on the gravel ground, I think those guys knew what was up. Watching the seething mass of humanity that was the men on the temple platform trying to get closer… well, I’ve never seen anything like that. It was a little horrifying to watch as men fell off the stairs. I can see how someone could easily get crushed or pulled under.

Only men can participate for religious and traditional reasons, and this is strictly enforced. I saw everything from high school boys to 80-year-old men (two groups of people I have no interest in seeing in a loincloth). I think most guys go with friends or a team. My friends went with the international team headed up by Okayama AJET. Okayama AJET has a brilliantly terrifying and accurate Naked Man Festival Safety Information page which anyone thinking about participating should read.

Participants pay a fee for their fundoshi and special tabi (those ninja-style white socks with 2 toes) to wear. They also need to pay professional dressers to help them into their fundoshi properly – part of getting it tied involves jamming it between butt cheeks and using the tent pole as leverage to wedge it tightly shut!

Usually the winners at this festival are members of judo clubs who are not fucking around when it comes to getting the shingi. These guys make a plan beforehand to get the guy with the stick out, including faking injuries or decoy guys faking that they have the stick. They use colored tape in a special pattern on their hand so they can identify their teammates quickly in the crowd, and use code words. It’s SERIOUS business.

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