Hadaka Matsuri, a.k.a "The Naked Man Festival"
Are you up for it?
On the third Saturday night in February, the annual Hadaka Matsuri is held at the Saidaiji Kannon-in temple in Okayama Prefecture. This year's festival will be held on February 21st, 2015.
Originating in 1510, this historic festival is also one of Japan's largest Naked Man festivals. In fact, naked festivals are said to have originated from the Saidaiji temple. Each year, over 9,000 participants and several thousand more spectators crowd the temple grounds for the festival which starts at 8:00pm.
The participants strip and change into loincloths, then spend the next hour or two running around the temple grounds and through a fountain of near-freezing water, which is said to purify the body and soul. While the men are purifying themselves and the spectators are freezing in the stands, priests are praying and chanting inside the temple. At 10:00pm, the lights in the temple grounds are turned out and the priests throw 100 sticks, called "shingi", into the crowd of men from the upper deck of the temple. The sticks are said to bring luck to those who can catch and keep them; a few of the sticks are luckier than most and will result in a large cash prize for the lucky men who grab these.
This is truly an unusual and must-see event (or must-do, if you are male and brave enough to endure the cold!).
The Saidaiji Kannon-in temple is a short walk from JR Saidaiji Station, which is a short ride from JR Okayama Station, but please note that trains will be crowded! Also note that the last train from Saidaiji back to Okayama City leaves at 11:41pm.
Non-Japanese visitors and tourists who are interested in participating either as a Naked Man or a spectator and who want to join up with the foreign community in Okayama are invited to contact Okayama AJET group for participation and transportation information. The contact is: firstname.lastname@example.org