Hadaka Matsuri: Festival of Thousands of Naked Japanese Men in the Icy Cold
On a cold winter’s day on the 13th day of the Lunar New Year, a very unique and unusual festival takes place at Inazawa City near Nagoya. Thousands of men wearing only loincloths, proceed towards Owariōkunitama Shrine 「尾張大國霊神社」 in local neighborhood groups. The men are participating in the Hadaka Matsuri 「Naked Festival/はだか祭」, a festival that dates back to the Nara period (well over 1000 years ago).
The festival is part of a series of rituals that occur around the Lunar New Year every year. There are several Hadaka Matsuri in Japan, the most famous of which occurs in Okayama. At Inazawa, an estimated 250,000 people attend the festival every year.
Starting at 5AM on the main day prayers begin at Owariōkunitama Shrine. Later in the day at 3PM, after the local groups have all reached the shrine, the God Man 「Shin Otoko/神男」 emerges and battles his way through the crowd of men. Everyone tries their best to lay their hands on the God Man, which is a sign of good luck for the coming year. Water and sake are thrown in the crowd of men, a form of ritual cleansing.
More information is available, including dates of the Hadaka Festival, in Japanese at Owariōkunitama Shrine’s Hadaka Matsuri page.