Thousands Of Naked Men Brave The Cold For Annual Festival, Chance At Lucky Sticks
About 10,000 Japanese men wearing only loincloths braved freezing temperatures as part of an annual ritual dating back 500 years.
The men converged at a temple in Okayama to scramble in the dark for lucky wooden talismans tossed into the crowd.
The highlight of the raucous day-long ‘Hadaka Matsuri’ festival came when the lights went out and a priest threw bundles of twigs and two lucky sticks, each about 20cm long, among the participants.
That set off a 30-minute tussle for the sticks, coveted as symbols of good fortune and prosperity, although most men escaped with just a few cuts and bruises, in contrast to past occasions, when some have been crushed to death.
“Once a year, at the coldest time in February, we wrap ourselves in just a loincloth to be a man,” Yasuhiko Tokuyama, a participant, said.
“That’s the significance of this event and why I continue to participate.”
Plenty of sake and beer is sold outside the temple to warm the revelers, but a purifying plunge into pools of cold water before the start of the festival was a shock to the system for most.
The annual celebration at the Saidaiji Kannonin Temple in the southern city of Okayama has its roots in a competition to grab paper talismans that dates back more than half a millennia.
But as its popularity grew, the paper talismans began to rip, as did the clothes of the rising number of participants, so eventually wooden sticks were adopted and garments discarded.