Hadaka Matsuri – Where Brave Men Tread
A festival originally practiced in Okayama (the largest city in Chugoku Region of Japan), Hadaka Matsuri is a celebration to test men’s vitality and courage and is believed to bring bountiful harvest, prosperity and fertility. Hadaka means “naked” and Matsuri is the Japanese word for festival. For tourists, this festival is popularly called “The Naked Man Festival”. Just hearing the name itself would certainly heighten one’s curiosity. Are they completely naked, without any clothes on? Is it safe to do in the middle of a freezing season? Why do they have to be naked?
Hadaka Matsuri is considered to be one of the strangest festival in Japan. In some places, it is celebrated in summer. But here in Urasa, a small town in Minami Uonuma City, it is held at the temple of Bishamonten, usually on the first week of March when the winter season is at its peak. Men, regardless of nationality, are highly encouraged to participate. Women, on the other hand, are restricted to be spectators only. But personally, I believe that regardless of gender, one can definitely take great entertainment from this event.
Men who are participating in the festival must wear fundoshi or loincloth which is the traditional undergarment of Japanese men. Some may opt to wear a happi coat (as shown in the picture above). They are highly encouraged to get intoxicated before coming to the event. Fortunately, Minami Uonuma City houses one of the best sake in Japan, made by Hakkai-san brewery. At the start of the festival, one may witness the parade of these intoxicated and almost-naked men with giant burning candles, almost weighing 30 kg. With the possibility of the candle wax dripping on their skin and walking around on a freezing temperature – that certainly is courage, don’t you think?
The large mob may discourage you from visiting as you may think that you will not be able to witness the event comfortably or wholly. But fret not because you can still see other activities at different parts of the temple all throughout the festival. On one side, you would see an unruly line of men heading towards the small pond in front of Bishamonten’s statue. In groups of four, they would dip themselves into the freezing pond while shouting “Sanyo! Sanyo!”. On another, you would witness these men fighting their way into the heart of the temple, charging through the crowd of media, students, families and all spectators to reach the altar in the belief that it would bring good luck and peace.
As a spectator, I think that one of the highlights of the festival is none other than food. In a small town such as Urasa, it is uncommon to have food stalls and a large crowd on the streets and therefore, one must make the most out of lively opportunities brought by festivals such as Hadaka Matsuri. Crepes, yakitori, yakisoba, kebabs – you name it. Some stalls also offer sake which may just the perfect drink for the cold season. On the whole, this festival would make you admire the bravery of men, appreciate the strangeness of Japan and lastly, get full with appetizing street foods.
See you next March!
2495 Urasa Minamiuonuma, Niigata Prefecture
March 3, 18:00 – 23:00
Visit some of the links below for more information regarding the festival.