So you want to know about the Naked Man Festival. Let’s be honest, it sounds like a pretty unique event, right? Let me tell you, it does not disappoint. I’ve never seen so much man butt in my life and neither have I been smashed between so many sweaty men in my life. It’s definitely an experience, though one I don’t think I’ll try again :).
Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of fun. In fact, all the body heat helped fend off the rain and winter cold that night. It’s just that this festival can get pretty dangerous and two weeks after the fact, one of my feet is still in throbbing pain. Fingers crossed it isn’t broken.
Anyways, let’s get down to the…bare…details.
WHAT IS NAKED MAN:Japan’s Naked Man Festival, or Hadaka Matsuri 裸祭り, is an annual, male only, event held throughout Japan every February, where thousands of men come from all around Japan to fight for bundles of incense while wearing nothing but what is essentially a loincloth. While this type of matsuri happens all over the country, the most famous occurs at the Saidaiji Temple in Okayama Prefecture – the birthplace of the Hadaka Matsuri.The goal is quite simple, capture a bundle of incense and get the hell out without dying. Many are thrown down onto the crowd by temple priests on the upper levels of the building and if you are lucky enough nab some incense and escape the temple grounds with it (and your life), you will have good luck for an entire year. That being said, most people are content with having just touched it seeing as the odds are against 1 person escaping from 9000! It is apparently still good luck just to touch one and people take that to heart, groping away into the pit until they touch something long and hard…yep…I said it.
THE ATTIRE:Now, the title for this event is very misleading. You aren’t “completely” naked. You are wearing a fundoshi (Japanese loin cloth) and tabi socks (Japanese Toe Shoes). If you don’t know what a fundoshi is, you are in for a treat. Imagine a combination of Tarzan’s loin cloth, a girdle, and a g-string. That’s what I was wearing for a good 3-4 hours. Well, that’s what all of us were wearing!
PREPARATION & COSTS:
Unfortunately, you don’t get to cast aside your self-respect and bare your treasures to the world for free. Oh no, you’ve got to pay. Specifically, observers have to pay a registration fee of ¥3,000 yen while runners (or participants) cash out ¥2,000 and then later pay around ¥3-4,000 yen for the fundoshi and tabi socks. But at least you get to keep them afterwards!With all the money out of the way, everybody starts getting dressed. However, there is a very specific way to wrap a fundoshi…apparently. As such, our tent had two “professional wrappers” hoisting men up from between their legs and forcing these fundoshi onto them. There is no better way to equalize everybody’s level of discomfort. There is absolutely no awkwardness after that point.
With the Fundoshi donned, our group of JETs and foreigners started parading around the neighborhood singing yashoi yashoi yashoi and drinking complementary sake and tea from businesses around the area. It’s all part of the ceremony :).