Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri – Okayama, Japan
THIRD SATURDAY IN FEBRUARY.
WE HAVEN’T SEEN ANYTHING QUITE LIKE THIS BEFORE.
It’s fair to say that it’s not every day you see close to 10,000 semi-naked Japanese men sprinting to a Shinto Temple to claim one of three small sticks believed to have sacred powers.
WE’RE SURE THERE’S A VERY GOOD REASON.
Well, there’s a reason. According to legend, the ritual began hundreds of years ago when, as a way of expelling disease and misfortune from the land, the people believed getting a naked man to walk through an afflicted village would absorb the people’s bad luck and evil. The unfortunate ‘chosen one’ or ShinOtoko was then banished from society taking all the disease, bad luck, evil and misery with him. Over time the role of the Shin-Otoko has come to be seen as a fortunate one.
HOW DO THEY FIGURE THAT?
Who knows, but the festival now draws huge crowds of loin-clothed men vying for the title of ‘lucky man’. To win the crown, a competitor must run through a pool of freezing water before frantically jostling to retrieve the shingi (sacred stick) after it has been tossed from the platform of a temple. We recommend standing to the side to see it all go down.