Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Naked Man Festival

Nine thousand naked men. Well, mostly naked men. Where was I the third weekend in February? NOT at Okayama's Saidaiji temple. Unfortunately.

I've heard about this before, the Hadaka Matsuri (the Naked Festival), but never knew when or where or any of the details. If you look here you can find a nice English explanation.

Basically, from late Saturday (this year it was February 17th) evening thousands of men gather in tents near the Saidaiji Temple's grounds to don their fundoshi. They also get free drinks, run around to keep warm, and take part in ritual purifying baths.

That has GOT to be cold. Wait a minute! I think I see a non-Japanese in that picture! Several even!

At eleven PM everyone runs over to the main temple and hangs out for an hour. And by 'hanging out' I mean chanting and working themselves into a frenzy. When midnight arrives the lights are turned off and several shingi (sacred sticks) are dropped into the crowd of up to ten thousand naked, wet, and extremely boisterous men. The fight ensues.

It looks like the happy fellow below has got himself one of the shingi.

Here is what the shingi look like when kept in the Shrine. It is very lucky if you manage to get one.

Here is an idea of what the crowd looks like. And some more pictures.

I just found a couple more beliefs surrounding the festival.

①If a pregnant woman wraps a fundoshi worn by one of the men who participated in the festival around her waist, she will have a safe delivery and a healthy child.

②If the dirt that has been tracked into the temple is sprinkled in a field, that field will produce a bumper crop.

③And finally, every man who participates in the event will not catch a cold for an entire year.

So, where will I be next year, the third weekend in February? Yep. Okayama Prefecture. Saidaiji. Maybe.


jean said...

They have one in Iwata, too (just this side of Hamamatsu). Don't remember when it is -- fall, maybe? We could go there together for, uh, research purposes...

Bk30 said...

Glad I wasn't the only one to realize that there were not many of Japanese orgin in that first shot.

Kappa no He said...

Jean: It's a date!

BK: J figured out that they were all wearing red, white, and blue wrist bands. Funny, I overlooked that.

Anonymous said...

I went to one near Inuyama in Gifu when I lived in Nagoya 25 years ago. Theirs was a little different. The guys in the fundoshi were the same, but the object was to catch the guy with the stick as he was running to the temple from his secret starting point. If you touched him, you had good luck for the year. Then all the men would go into the temple, and the runner would drop the stick from his perch on a ceiling beam into the crowd. The lucky, often bloody winner got the best luck and became the honored runner for the next year. There was also the penis festival near Inuyama, too. A very ceremonial affair that had me in stitches the first time I saw it. All these young women dressed in white, carrying these carvings of phallae in their hands in front of them, doing the slow march from the temple around town and back again, and being damn serious about it, too. And the giant dicks on parade, too. Some were hundreds of years old, carved from the trunks of cedars before the Tokugawas took over. Kind of hard to get around the idea of some of the traditional festivals at first, especially when you come from a country whose oldest native festival revolves around eating a turkey.

Kappa no He said...

Imo: The Ol' Penis Festival is one I've been hankering to see for quite some time. I've heard and seen pictures of the female version of the event. Male anatomy is just funnier. Sorry 'bout that. Maybe I mean it is more worship-inspiring. Something.

Here we have a summer festival where a kid throws arrows into a crowd like that. I know what you mean about bloody. I watched once from a roof right overhead and it was brutal. Still; so cool. We never had anything like that where I come from. Hell, their trying to outlaw Halloween where I come from!

Talia Mana, Centre for Emotional Well-Being said...

Ummmm that's not quite as enticing as the header suggested LOL. Only a few men have the bodies to strut about naked