Imagine one of the coldest nights in Japan and 10000 naked men enjoying a tradition!
About 10,000 men took part in Japan’s Hadaka Matsuri festival on Saturday. Also known as the Naked Festival, Hadaka Matsuri takes place every year at the Saidaiji Kannon-in temple in Okayama City in western Japan. Men wearing just a loincloth battle it out for some good luck charm sticks thrown into the crowd by the priest from a window 4 meters up. Sounds like an urban legend, but it is one of the three most eccentric festivals of Japan.
Anyone who luckily gets hold of the shingi thrusts it upright into a wooden box, known as a masu, which is heaped with rice. This lucky person is called the ‘fuku otoko’ and is blessed with a year of happiness. Hundreds of other lucky items, like bundles of willow strips, are also thrown in the air. But, between so many men, it’s not a very easy task to grab hold of one!
This Saturday, the men donned white Japanese loincloths and stepped into cold fountains, where they purified their bodies with water before heading into the temple.
The Hadaka Matsuri is not the only festival in Japan like this. The ancient Shinto festival of Kanchu Misogi is a purification ritual that is supposed to cleanse the body and soul and bring worshippers closer to mystical spirits. This has about 100 participants each year during a time when temperatures hit just above freezing. The participants strip down to loincloths and take a dip in pool at Teppozu Inari Shinto shrine, followed by the act of crouching down and hugging ice-blocks.
The Naked Festival dates back 500 years to a time when worshippers competed to receive paper talismans thrown by the priest. Now, due to the fragile nature of paper, the talismans are willow strips and sticks. The men shout out ‘Wasshoi! Wasshoi!’ while approaching the temple. Due to the cold, water is thrown over them occasionally. The reason for this being that when it stops, it becomes too cold to even breathe. At midnight, the lights are turned off and sacred sticks are thrown into the air. Some sticks are caught and others are snatched away. This is also a spectator festival with huge crowds gathering together to motivate the participating men.
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