Published on February 9th, 2012 | by Adrian Simpson0
Hadaka Matsuri – The naked Festival
There is no more vintage month in the Japanese Festival Calendar than February. It’s this funny old month in which you decide that you’re actually quite happy being fat, that smoking really isn’t so bad after all and there really is very little point in keeping in touch with people who really don’t care whether you live or die. So, to stop you thinking about all of that jumble the Japanese have the Hadaka Matsuri – The naked Festival and it’s close relative the Dairokuten Hadaka Matsuri – The Naked mud flinging festival.
The Naked Festival takes place all over Japan but perhaps the most well known, and well attended, is the one at the Saidaiji Temple in Okayama Prefecture on the third weekend in February. It dates back 500 years and nowadays involves a cool 9000 naked men trying to catch two 20cm sticks that are thrown into the crowd by a priest from a window 4m above the crowd. That may all sound fairly precise and well ordered but what follows is nothing short of a club rugby player’s idea of paradise, as 9000 almost naked men slide, writhe and grapple their way to two sticks about the size of your average cucumber, almost certainly benefitting from the effects of alcohol.
Things have been getting a bit out of hand in recent years with cash prizes on offer for the winners of the sticks. This has prompted the Yakuza (local mobsters) sending people along to get involved in organised punch ups for money. However, if you fancy going along there’s an easy way to avoid getting a pummelling from the mafia: all participants have to wear a white loin cloth, for some reason the Yakuza insist on highlighting their activities by wearing black ones. I doubt whether any two British Gangsters have the same coloured pants.
In Yotsukaido, Chiba Prefecture, locals have put their own spin on what is already a clearly enjoyable evening out, simply by hosting their event in the freezing waters of the local river and throwing mud at each other. Again, this would really appeal to anyone finding themselves near Chiba and desperately missing The Six Nations, as here the men aren’t competing for prizes but simply enjoy sliding about and huddling together to keep warm. They charge into the icy waters of the local river and then form human pyramids which try to attack each other, but really it just seems like a good excuse for a roll around and it’s all carried out in a great spirit which is supposed to bring good luck to the entire community.
It’s not all naked japes with scantily clad people though, this week sees the Sapporo Snow Festival in full swing, with some truly awe inspiring icy construction. It started in 1950 and has been growing in stature ever since, with the International Snow Sculpture competition being the highlight of the week. The snow is transported in a month before and the building work begins ready for the 2.5 million visitors that are expected to walk through city’s streets which play host to the art. And we’re talking serious pieces of art, and there’s no better way to demonstrate that by showing you the newly crowned 2012 winner announced today, 9th February.