What is Hadaka Matsuri?
Okayama’s “Naked Man Festival”, officially called Saidaiji Eyo, is held on the third Saturday in February at Saidai-ji. This festival, having a tradition of approximately 500 years, is one of the three rarest festivals in Japan. During the coldest month of the year, men wearing only fundoshi, traditional Japanese loincloths, fight to obtain one of two lucky sticks thrown by the temple priests. The men who catch the sticks will have an entire year of good fortune, and also receive a cash reward from the festival’s sponsors. All lights in the temple are temporarily blacked out and other “less-lucky” sticks are also thrown down into the crowd of participants to create even more confusion. Spectators can pay for seating, or fight the crowds.
|Event duration||Third Saturday in February (e.g. 2/21/15)|
|Population||Okayama: 1.9 million
Japan : 127 million
|Religion||Shinto (83.9%, most believe in both Shinto and Buddhism)
|Currency||118.90 JPY (Japanese Yen) = 1 USD
1 JPY = 0.0085 USD
|Safety||8th safest country out of 162 on the Global Peace Index. Very safe and it is very common to leave purses unguarded in public places.|
|Type of Culture||Largely thought to be a homogeneous place, Japan is growing in diversity. Most Japanese people know their blood type, and many women select a prospective husband based on his blood type.|
2/19: Day One
Arrive in Okayama, picked up by couchsurfing host family
Go to your host’s favorite spot to eat
Spend the night talking with your host family about the festival and Japan
2/20: Day Two
Visit Koraku-en Garden
Learn more about Hadaka Matsuri and the Shingi
2/21: Day Three
Have a manly breakfast and prepare yourself for a crazy bro day
Take a bus to the Saidai-ji decked out in your white loincloth
Enjoy the fun and catch a shingi!
2/24: Day Four
Head to the Maki-do Caves
2/25: Day Five
Paraglide before flying home
Koraku-en Garden: Okayama’s main attraction. One of Japan’s three best landscape gardens. Korakuen is a spacious garden that incorporates the typical features of a Japanese landscape garden, including a large pond, streams, walking paths and a hill that serves as a lookout point. Also found in the garden are groves of plum, cherry and maple trees, tea and rice fields, an archery range and a crane aviary.
Shingi, sacred sticks: Considered sticks of the Gods. Get blessed with a yearlong of happiness by catching a shingi stick!
Maki-do Caves: One of three limestone caves located in Niimi, Okayama Prefecture, Japan. Named Dream Palace, the cave is 450 metres long, with a small, underground lake at the furthest end.
Peach: Enjoy a locally grown white peach for breakfast! (shiro momo). Okayama is known to be the original setting of a fairytale which involved a “peach boy” who was literally found inside of a peach floating down the river by a childless couple.
Paragliding: Head to the Okayama Prefecture for paragliding!
All day bike ride: Bike around ancient Pagodas and shrines at the Kibi Plains.
The festival originated in the 16th century when people would request special talismans thrown out by priests. As word spread that the talismans were bringing good luck to those who possessed them, more and more people came to get them. Fights broke out and the talismans were damaged. Later this all evolved into a midnight festival with only male participants dressed in loincloths. Today, the festival continues to evolve, with the “midnight” highlight of the festival recently moved forward 2 hours to finish at 10PM.
All 10,000 of which are competing for 2 shingi thrown from a balcony into the crowd
of men. If you manage to acquire a shingi, you are then required to shove your way through the crowd toward a wooden measuring box full of rice, known as a masu. The man who drives the shingi upright into the masu is proclaimed one year of happiness and is “the lucky man.”
There are dozens of Hadaka Matsuri all over Japan. Another tradition follows the shinto belief that the naked man absorbs all bad luck and evil deeds from those who touch him. It is said that the ritual used to commemorate the end of a plague. The Naked man takes on the ills of his community and is then exiled.
A selection ceremony is held to determine the Shin-otokoa (god man) and sometimes there is more than one. It is a great honor to be chosen as the naked man. Once chosen he must undergo a purification process. He is kept alone for three days in a small shrine and fed nothing but rice-gruel and water. All body hair is shaved off as part of the purification process, as well.
During the festival he sets off through the streets, besieged by over 9000 men, all desperate to touch him for good luck. He is pummelled, chased, pulled over; he faints, is bruised and must spend an entire day in the thick of a heaving mass of loinclothed bodies while completely naked. Some Shin-otokoa are trampled to death.
When he finally arrives at his destination (usually a shrine or alter of some kind), he pays his respects to the Shinto deity of the shrine and is symbolically banished from the town.