From square watermelons to Pen Pineapple Apple Pens, Japan is known for some bizarre stuff. Another one of these strange events is the Hadaka Matsuri! Hadaka meaning naked, the infamous Naked Festival which consists of a battle for some sacred wooden sticks is celebrated all over the country.
I can imagine some eyebrows are raised right now, but I assure you there are no sexual rituals happening here and the wooden sticks are really just wooden sticks. This massive festival takes place on February 18th, 2017 and is about more than barebutts! This event holds significant spiritual meaning in Japanese culture.
History Of Hakada Matsuri
The Naked Festival can be traced back as far as 767 AD during the Nara period when adversities and disease was great. There was a belief that baring it all would allow a pathway for the bad luck and evil to be soaked up. A male from every village was actually forced to serve as the “Godly Man” or in Japanese Shin-Otoko. It was required that all the body hair must be removed first, and then he would present himself to the keen villagers who believed touching him would cure them of all their problems. Being a Shin-Otoko during this time was more of a punishment than a blessing, because after all the touching at the festival, they were banished from the village along with all the bad luck. It really, really sucked to be the naked man.
The lucky sticks became apart of the festival 500 years ago when devotees competed to get hold of paper talismans called Go-o thrown by priests. The Go-o symbolized the New Year ascetic training by the priests. Anyone who had one of these talismans would have good things happen to them, so demand grew for some luck and the paper was switched to wood to last longer.
Time has passed but the Hadaka festival is more or a celebration than a sombre banishment today. Today, being the Shin-Otoko at the Naked Festival in Konomiya is awesome and a bringer of good luck.
The men aren’t actually naked if you’re hesitant about attending the festival because of the bare bits you might see. Maybe to some of your disappointment, all the peckers are safely tucked away in a loin cloth.
The most popular of the festivities happen at Saidai-ji Kannon Temple in Okayama. Here, there are more than 10,000 men who strive to be the “lucky man” by catching the wooden stick now known as Shingi.
What Happens At The Hakada Matsuri
So what exactly happens at the buttock clad festival? Well, it starts off three days prior to the event where participants are sent away into a isolated room with nothing to eat but rice and miso soup. And if you’re freaking out already about human rights now, no one actually does this. And if they do, it’s because they want to which is pretty eccentric even for the Japanese. Everyone comes prepared to the day of the festival with the loincloth, or you can purchase them in and around the festival. Festivities begin with a Mock version for children at 4 p.m, along with traditional dance performances and Taiko drumming.
Then comes the bare butts! The nakedness begins with all the men stripping down and strapping on the loincloth. And you might think that’s the easy part, but it requires some skills to know how to wrap it correctly, and from falling off amidst a crowd of thousands. It’s also not very comfortable…if you’ve ever had a giant wedgie then you can sympathize.
But that’s definitely not the hardest part! Jumping into a freezing pool of water in the middle of winter with the risk of hypothermia is no easy task. But watching them enthusiastically chanting “Wasshoi, Wasshoi!” you would never guess that they butt naked in the middle of February! There are buckets of water that gets splashed on the men throughout the event. These dudes resilience is pretty impressive!
Then comes the final and the important part of the matsuri, getting that stick! All the lights are turned off at exactly 10 p.m and the priest throws the luck bearing object from a top the temple along with bundles of other items to create a challenge. The chaos begins! Everyone pushes, kicks and climbs on top of each other to become the luckiest man! If someone manages to get a hold of the stick, it is quickly plucked from their hands by another. So if you find yourself there to experience the spectacle, it’s probably better to watch from a safe distance. There are even special seats available to buy for the show!
How To Participate?
You may find yourself intrigued, especially after the mention of a cash prize. The Naked Festival is free for all to join, even yakuza whom can be spotted with their black cover up! And if you’re worried that you may not be welcome due to being foreign, that will not be an issue. Just get yourself a loincloth and show up!
No Fighting (But the battle of the Shingi doesn’t quite follow this rule)
No Drinking alcohol
No Tattoos (Can be covered with skin-colored tape)
The Naked Festival is truly one of a kind. And the rituals may seem extreme all for some luck. But watching these men support and cheering each other on makes one think that it’s worth it and perhaps the most important part of the Hadaka Matsuri. Are you brave enough to join the pack?
John Daub, a popular YouTuber here in Japan went to the event and participated! Here is his report on it:
The festival will be held in Okayama at Saidaiji-Kannon Temple on the 18th of February!
Thumbnail picture source: Trevor Williams