Updated: November 06, 2017
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Hadaka Masturi: Japan's Big "Naked Festival"

The most famous Hadaka Matsuri, or naked festival, is the one held in Okayama in February. Essentially, it's a game consisting of men wearing fundoshi (loincloths) competing in mass to get a hold of a pair of sacred sticks.

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Hadaka Matsuri

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The Hadaka Matsuri of Okayama is known as one of the great three "kisai" (奇祭) in Japan which translates to "strange festival". It is held annually on the night of the third Saturday of February on the grounds of the Temple of Saidai-ji. The place has many important cultural assets such as a three-storied pagoda and a "bonsho" (Buddhist temple bell). But what has really made the place famous is the gathering of nearly 10,000 naked-ish (wearing only the fudonshi) men fiercely competing to grab one of the two sacred sticks thrown in the mass of people by the chief priest of the temple.
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Prior to the competition, the sticks are blessed. The man who will manage to take the stick when it is thrown in the main temple building will be called the fukuotoko ("lucky man"). It is said that the lucky man will be blessed with good fortune for the coming year. This is a very ancient tradition that can be traced back 500 years ago when priests threw paper talismans at worshipers.
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The main competition is held at midnight for the men but other events are held from 4 PM on the day of the "Naked Festival". Young boys also have their own competition. They compete for rice cakes.
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Men are the competitors but women also have their own role at the hadaka matsuri. At around 7 PM, a group of women put on a musical performance on by playing traditional drums.
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For the men, prior to the competition, other rituals of purification are practiced including this one of praying in icy cold water.
There is a festive atmosphere throughout the event. You can eat some street food sold at stalls and enjoy watching the competitions!

Lastly...

You have got to admire the courage of the men and boys who compete at night in the middle of winter wearing virtually nothing. Don't miss the Hadaka Matsuri of Okayama in February!

Also, while you are there, you might want to try some amazing sushi!
tabikamome
Japanese food culture enthusiast. Love to explore new areas and discover local specialties.

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