Have you ever wanted luck and happiness for an entire year? All you have to do is slip on a fundoshi (a traditional Japanese loincloth), get purified with freezing cold water in the middle of February and join 9000 other Japanese men – with their 18,000 bare cheeks – in fighting over one of two lucky shingi sticks. Piece of cake, right?
On the third Saturday of February each year, in the Japanese city of Saidaiji-naka in Okayama, over nine thousand men, not including spectators, travel to the Saidai-ji Temple for one of Japan’s most eccentric festivals: the ‘Naked Festival’ known as Hadaka Matsuri.
Hadaka Matsuri dates back over five hundred years, when worshippers began competing to receive paper tokens from Shinto priests known as “go-o”, which supposedly gave a whole year of happiness to those lucky enough to win.
Today, competitors are first purified with cold water, then at midnight the lights to the temple are switched off and the priest throws the lucky charms – two 20cm-long sticks – into the crowd from a window above. To win, competitors must catch the stick and thrust it into a box filled with rice – only then, will they receive their blessing of year-long happiness.
This video shows two British tourists tackle this rather chaotic, and in some parts terrifying, celebration:
Top image © mTaira/Shutterstock