Japan's Naked Festival, Hadaka Matsuri, canceled for all but a select few

(CNN) — This time a year back, 1000’s gathered for Japan’s annual Hadaka Matsuri — also popularly recognized as the “Bare Festival”– in Okayama prefecture in the southern section of Honshu island.

In present-day weather of social distancing, the movie highlights from very last year’s function (see over) are a surreal reminder of how a great deal has modified because then.

Also recognised as Saidaiji Eyo, Hadaka Matsuri normally takes position on the third Saturday of February at the Saidaiji Kannonin Temple, about a 30-minute teach ride from Okayama town. And this calendar year was no exception.

But the Covid-19 pandemic has forged its very long shadow in excess of 2021 proceedings, forcing organizers to pare matters down noticeably.

A struggle amongst 10,000 guys

Hadaka Matsuri celebrates the blessings of a bountiful harvest, prosperity and fertility.

In typical situations, it starts off mid-afternoon with an event for younger boys — aimed at fostering interest in more youthful generations. In the night, the 10,000 or so male members shell out an hour or two functioning all around the temple grounds in planning and purify by themselves with freezing cold drinking water, just before cramming by themselves into the primary temple making.

They are not as naked as the festival’s name suggests. They activity a negligible volume of apparel generally a Japanese loincloth termed a “fundoshi” and a pair of white socks known as “tabi.”

In this picture taken on February 18, 2017, worshippers hold out for the priest to throw the sacred batons for the duration of the yearly Hadaka Matsuri at Saidaiji Temple in Okayama.

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/AFP through Getty Images

When the lights go out at 10 p.m., a priest throws 100 bundles of twigs and two fortunate 20-centimeter-lengthy sacred shingi batons into the group from a window 4 meters higher than.

It is really a scene that would be unthinkable now. The adult males, packed in like sardines, jostle with each other to get maintain of just one of the bundles and/or the two sticks. Whoever succeeds is certain a yr of very good fortune, according to legend. (The shingi are extra sought immediately after than the less-coveted twigs, which can be taken property.)

The whole occasion lasts all-around 30 minutes and members arise with a few cuts, bruises and sprained joints.

People normally occur from all throughout Japan and a few from overseas to just take element.

But occasion organizers verified to CNN Vacation that this year’s Hadaka Matsuri party, which took put on February 20, was confined to only a choose, socially distanced group of 100 or so adult men who had caught the shingi in previous yrs, and was closed to spectators.

Somewhat than fight for the batons, the men gathered at the Saidaiji Kannonin Temple to pray for fertility, an finish to the pandemic and world peace, whilst observing security steps including social distancing.

Uninterrupted for 500 years

As part of the Naked Festival, participants purify themselves with freezing cold water before entering the main temple.

As part of the Bare Festival, members purify them selves with freezing chilly drinking water before coming into the major temple.

Trevor Williams/Getty Illustrations or photos AsiaPac/Getty Pictures

Why not just terminate the overall event?

In a statement highlighting their factors for likely forward with a seriously downsized version of the competition, organizers famous that it is really has ongoing uninterrupted for above 500 decades.

“In dialogue with the main priest and committee users, we have arrived at the summary that we need to pray (for) Eyo now,” mentioned Saijaiji Eyo chairman Minoru Omori. Eyo relates to a term identified as “ichiyo-raifuku,” which indicates “to withstand the severe, chilly wintertime and access the warmth of spring.”

“In other words, we pray for fantastic luck after continual negative points,” claimed Omori.

The Bare Pageant evolved from a ritual that started off 500 yrs in the past during the Muromachi Period of time (1338-1573), when villagers competed to grab paper talismans, which were being presented out by a priest at the Saidaiji Kannonin Temple.

Far more and much more villagers wished people lucky paper talismans and the ritual grew in sizing. But they understood that when they went to seize the paper it ripped. Their clothes just bought in the way far too, so they eventually did away with them and exchanged paper for wood, defined Mieko Itano, a spokeswoman from the Okayama tourism board, in a 2020 interview with CNN Vacation.

With its lengthy heritage, the festival was also selected an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Asset in 2016. It truly is a person of many “naked festivals” held across Japan, with an additional held at Yotsukaido in Chiba prefecture, showcasing adult men in loincloths fighting and carrying youngsters via mud as a approach of exorcism.

Japan and Covid-19

Every day Covid-19 cases have been in drop in latest weeks in Japan, though Tokyo is amongst numerous prefectures underneath a point out of emergency to control the virus. The state has reported more than 424,000 Covid-19 instances and additional than 7,000 deaths.

The pandemic pressured organizers to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics last yr, with the games established to get started on July 23, 2021.

Tokyo officers are now grappling with the difficulty of how to pull off what could establish to be the most elaborate sporting celebration at any time held — a person involving extra than 11,000 athletes from additional than 200 nations.

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