Planning a holiday isn’t always a straightforward process. You have to broaden your horizons if you want to get a dose of culture on your getaway. Not that you’ll need much persuasion to visit, but Japan just might have what you’re looking for. We present Hadaka Matsuri, also known as the “Naked Festival”.

When is Hadaka Matsuri?

Chinese New Year falls on 16 and 17 January 2018.

The festival is held on the third Saturday of February. This year, it falls on 17 February, which coincides with the 2018 Chinese New Year long weekend. Time to start planning your travels.

What is the Naked Festival about?

Okay, we know what you’re thinking, but hear us out. Before you go red in the face thinking about a parade of bare skin, participants in the festival aren’t completely naked – they wear fundoshi (traditional loincloths).

Hadaka Matsuri by Roger Walch (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Hadaka Matsuri as we know it has more than 500 years of history, and at its heart is a desire to be blessed with good luck. More specifically, the festival sees a large gathering of fundoshi-clad men competing for possession of various lucky objects thrown into the crowd by priests.

Glaring at the water cannon man by calltheambulance (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Among these objects are shingi (sacred sticks) and willow strips. The festival proper begins at midnight – the lights go out, the shingi and willow strips are thrown and the contest,  similar to rugby, hits fever pitch. The spectacle makes for some pretty incredible photos.

Where can you see Hadaka Matsuri?

Hadaka Matsuri celebrations take place at several locations around Japan, but the biggest of them is held at the 1,200-year-old Saidaiji Kannon-in temple in Okayama (not to be confused with Nara’s Saidaiji temple). Close to 10,000 participants gather here for a battle like no other.

Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri by Jere Samuli Perttula (CC BY 2.0)

Okayama can be reached easily via Osaka and Hiroshima aboard the Sanyo Shinkansen. The closest railway station to Saidaiji Kannon-in temple is Saidaiji Station on the Ako Line, a 20-minute walk away (alight at Aioi to switch to the Ako Line from the Sanyo Shinkansen).

For more information, visit the Japan National Tourism Organisation.

Feature image by shin7d 


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