Friday, February 23, 2007

Voodoo Dolls

We saw these months ago in Tokyo. They were a bit expensive so I didn't buy one -- much to my son's chagrin. Then last week I found them again in a store near us. The gal was unloading boxes of the little critters. It was my birthday, I had money in my pocket, so I bought three (ending up giving one away...sniff).

They're Voodoo Dolls from Thailand, evidently.

Here's J's:

Here's mine:

I didn't think it was really bloggable until I saw that China has outlawed them. Why? Because they possess black magic powers. And I gave one to my kid!

They each come with some special ability. J's is for concentration. With all the homework the kid has even he has agreed he needs all the help he can get. Mine is actually to stop smoking or to get rid of some other bad habit. With all my bad habits...I should have bought more. Most, though, are for love of some kind or other. Some for peace or driving away evil. Oh, and there were a few to stop your significant other from having an affair and a few to encourage it.

I found this on a Japanese site. Each color represents some wish: Purple~to be popular, Blue~health, Pink~love, Yellow~money. But then at the bottom is says that if you have some other 'dangerous' wish that is not covered in the above colors you buy that black and white fellow. So maybe they are evil.

Mine didn't come with any pin or instructions on how to destroy someone's spirit. I just liked the the bikini top and the whip.

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.