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Published: March 9th 2006
A few j-boyfriends for me!
The title of this blog alone should attract more visitors than any of my other entries! The third week of February I was lucky (unlucky?) to go to the Naked Man Festival, better known as the Hadaka Masturi. There are naked man festivals all over Japan, but I think the one in Okayama-Ken is the oldest and most famous. If you have no interest in reading the blog, check out this guy Josh's video.
It is very enjoyable, showing Hiroshima JETs in their finest form and parts of the festival as well. Honestly, you had to see the festival to believe it. Loads of fun!!!
To begin my blog, I would like to point out how customs around the world are not that different than the Naked Man Festival. At first I though, "this is an Only In Japan moment," because what other country would think to run around naked in the middle of winter? I myself have participated in a rather obsurd ritual, that makes no sense, yet you do it anyway. In my hometown, Chico California, on the first day of the new year, about 50 crazy people jump into the One Mile swimming area
Besides seeing a lot of naked men we did manage to see some cultural things. This is Okayama castle, aka \"The Black Heron\"
and swim across to the other side. It is called the Polar Bear Swim. This act of stupidity really has no meaning behind it. It is not supposed to bring you any luck...I mean you get a sticker at the end that says "Chico is my Hometown." Looking back I was trying to think of a good reason to do this event...yet was not able to come up with any of any importance. I did it just to do it. I even did it sober, bordeline still hungover from the New Year's Eve debauchery the night before. So Before any of you read this and think "only in Japan," ask yourself are there any silly antics/rituals that you have participated in???
That said...the Hadaka Matsuri was quite an interesting festival and not one anyone coming to Japan should miss. So a little history behind this festival. In the 1500 hundreds at the Saidaji Temple just north of Okayama City, once a year priests would throw amulets to onlookers. They were supposed to bring you luck for the following year. 500 years later the initial concept still remains yet it has definitely changed with the times. They now throw 2
sticks out into the crowds of men, called "Shingi." Before entering the temple grounds the men, only wearing "fundoshi" (Japanese underwear/loincloth), must run through freezing cold water to purify themselves. Once inside the temple they climb the steps and try to get as close as they can to the center where the sticks will be dropped at midnight. At the stroke of 12, all the lights in the temple are turned off, signaling the release of the sticks. The man who successfully takes the stick from the Saidaji Temple and gives it to a priest at a nearby location is the winner. He is supposed to have a lot of luck and prosperity for the next year.
What probably started as hundreds of people has now turned into thousands. On the way to the temple we were told that 2,000 men participated. I estimated about 4,000, yet the news said 9,000 men took part this year. Crazy I tell you. Now, these sticks are like gold. Men will do ANYTHING to obtain these sticks. I was told that someone died last year in the mess of men trying to get the sticks. They also have teams. So, if one
The other side of the castle
person gets the stick, then the whole team benefits. Often times team members will paint there bodies or tape their hands so they know if one of their teammates was lucky enough to get the stick. Team Gaijin wrapped blue tape all over their hands and arms- even in the mess of men gaijin could not be easily identified. There is now strategy. Some teams purposely wait next to the priests so at the last minute they can grab the stick from other men. Team Gaijin had the idea to give it to the tallest man (since the probably of a 6'5" J guy were slim to none) and then protect him. As far as I know Team Gaijin came up empty handed. So those are the basics of the Hadaka Matsuri. Now onto my experience....
Since the trek to Okayama is a little far, Lisa and I went early so we could check out the sights in Okayama...not much! We did go to Okayama castle, better known as the "Black Heron Castle," which is the opposite of the most famous castle in Japan, Himeji, aka "The White Egret." I'm still not sick of castles and loved to go
Stirling and Pete psyching themselves up for the run
up the castle. Lisa and I got to try on kimonos inside the place. Super fun! As the nigt continued more and more jets were lurking the streets of Okayama.
Early on during the night of the festival there are events for younger boys to pariticipate in, possibly training for their future participation in the main event. Beers in hand, we arrived at the temple grounds with thousands of people already there. There were the token festival vending stalls selling squid on sticks and more beer. I have never see soooo many police officers in my life! It was craziness! In Japan they have no law against drinking in the streets. Felt very awkward to be able to drink and be drunk in front of the police officers, no questions asked. Coming here we had no idea what to expect. I thought it was a quick event...men shed down to the loincloths, run out there, get the stick, and go. ooooh no. Crazy Japanese men were running around for HOURS in nothing but those loincloths. I swear Japanese people have no concept of being cold! It was CRAZY! Of course, it definitely made for some good photos. There were
Gotta love those smiley faces!!!
some guys wandering around with paint. Somehow I took the paint from them, and drew smiley faces on their stomachs. In return they gave me a uni-brow which i quickly wiped away. When we got to the waiting ground to watch there were already hundreds of guys in position for the Shingi to be dropped. It was cold! I kept on saying how cold I was, but knew that those guys were a hell of a lot colder than I would ever be. Unforunately from where i was standing I could not get the best photos. So, apologies for the lack of excellent photography, but I think you get the idea.
We also went to the parade area where the men were marching into the shrine. We would scream things to them and they would all be soooo genki. It is definitely a toss up...who is more fun to take photos with: quiet, silent Sumo wrestlers or genki almost naked japanese men? By the time the sticks were dropped we were sooo cold, saw sooo many nake bums running around, that it was time to go. I really have no idea who actually got the sticks. It was a
So Lisa and I have sumo and hadaka boyfriends!!!! Racking them up in Japan!!! South East Asia Century Club!! (thats for you Puneet hehehe). Notice my hot uni-brow
battlefield out there when the sticks were dropped. Guys were falling of the edge of the temple, falling all over each othere, pushing each other...all for a measely stick that will bring you good luck! Yet, it was absolutely fabulous. Wouldn't have missed it for the world.
On our way back to the bus we ran into some fellow Hiroshima-Ken Jets. We ran into dear Bill. Bill ran in the race and was now fully clothed. We asked him how it went and without warning, pulls down his pants to show the big red mark on his butt that he got from falling off the steps. As you can tell Bill, all of us, and probably most of the runners, had a bit of alcohol in our systems- liquid coats in full effect! Still, around 1, naked men were running down the streets. For heavens sake put some clothes on boys!!! We all then met at the bar big enough in Okayama to fit the JETs and continued the merriment. Oh what a night! The next day we roadtripped to Kurashiki for a great Italian lunch, got lost in the Inaka for a bit, and headed on back to
Take her Away
Not tonight...no DIP or open container laws in effect tonight! Notice the mess of cops
To conclude Japan is not the only crazy country to do such absurd things as the Hadaka Matsuri. Yet, Japan has a way of making things more extravagant, more competitive, and very very entertaining! So this Naked MAN festival gets quite the crowd, but could you even imagine the crowd for a Naked WOMAN festival? :-).
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