Yes, you read it correctly. Today I went to the naked man festival, known as 裸まつり (hadaka matsuri) in Japanese. Most every blogger living in the greater Nagoya area probably has written about this. So now it is my turn. What is the Hadaka matsuri? Quickly, I would describe it as an opportunity for men to drink a lot of sake, wear only a fundoshi, carry a large bamboo pole in the streets, flirt with old ladies, and try to touch a completely naked shaved man so that all their bad luck will be transferred. That’s the short version.
According to the Aichi Prefectural Government San Francisco Office publication, “What’s Up Aichi”
The Hadaka Matsuri, or Naked Festival, has been around for 1200 years and draws hundreds of thousands of participants and festival goers hoping to dispel the misfortunes of the previous year and summon the spring.
During a solemn ceremony in the days before the festival, a local man is chosen to be the shin otoko, literally “god man,” on whom all of the year’s sins and misfortunes will be cast. The stripped shin otoko, shaven of all his body hair and purified from days of confinement in Konomiya Shrine, makes his way through a horde of nearly ten-thousand men dressed in mere loincloths and headbands all vying to touch (or hit) him in order to drive away the year’s trouble and gain good fortune for the new year. Once the scapegoat reaches the gates of the shrine, he faces assailment from the unclothed mass of freezing men as his outnumbered guards bravely fend of the rambunctious townsmen by dousing them with buckets of ice cold water.
As many of the men succeed in their attempts to lay a hand on the shin otoko and others give in to the winter chill, the god man is finally able to fight with way, bruised and battered, into Konomiya Shrine, where he will pay his respects to Kunitamanokami, the shrine’s divine protector, before being driven from town.
So what’s the motivation for being the Shin Otoko?
I was not the only spectator at the festival. It was packed, and I actually bumped in to one of my colleagues who is also one of my English students in my weekly English conversation class.
The festival is quite a testament to how alcohol and ritual can work people in to a bit of frenzy. We arrived rather early as it turned out and we saw a few groups go by. They were rather subdued with quite a bit of time separating each group. I wonder what determines the marching order? As the day progressed though, the groups seemed to get bigger and of course more and more wasted. After all, they had hours to get ready, which basically means hours to drink sake.
I’m not sure why watching the processional was interesting. But it was. The woman in front of us was exceedingly aggressive collecting strips of cloth and touching the participants. I guess that touching them transfers the bad spirits from her to the participants and then hopefully to the shin otoko. She even took cloth from a child! Those around us were surprised.
My colleagues were in the spirit of the event as well so as a group of foreigners it was interesting. One thing that kept us engaged was that the festival is absolutely something we would never see in the US (Burning Man excluded). I guess it could be compared to the now defunct Nude Olympics that occurred at Purdue. That always drew a crowd.
There are casualties as well, as you can see from the face of the man below. This is mild compared to some of the scrapes we saw. Some were even carted off in stretchers.
By the end of the event, things got pretty sloppy. Fundoshi got a little bit loose, and the jangly bits were jangling. I will spare the blog of those photos. There was one particularly sloppy foreigner who really should have been arrested. I had to look away. There was also the guy who was standing on a higher ledge just in front of us of kept bending over and exposing one of the twins to us. Everyone behind him was really laughing.
Enjoy the rest of the pictures. I hope to attend the fertility festival in March. Yeah, that’s right.
Early in the day, we wandered up to the temple where all the semi-naked men were going.
Notice the body decorations. I had a good picture of a “Yes We Can” body graffiti, but there were young boys in the picture as well so I didn’t want some strange website linking to me.
Some more action shots during the procession.
That’s an expensive camera on a pole. I just held my camera in the air a lot. I’m not that crazy.
Like all festivals, food was prevelant.
Is this a warmup for the fertility festival?