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Hadaka Matsuri: Japan’s famed Bare Competition canceled for all however a choose few


(CNN) — This time a yr in the past, 1000’s gathered for Japan’s annual Hadaka Matsuri — additionally popularly referred to as the “Naked Festival”– in Okayama prefecture within the southern a part of Honshu island.

In immediately’s local weather of social distancing, the video highlights from final yr’s occasion (see above) are a surreal reminder of how a lot has modified since then.

Often known as Saidaiji Eyo, Hadaka Matsuri takes place on the third Saturday of February on the Saidaiji Kannonin Temple, a few 30-minute prepare experience from Okayama metropolis. And this yr was no exception.

However the Covid-19 pandemic has solid its lengthy shadow over 2021 proceedings, forcing organizers to pare issues down considerably.

A battle between 10,000 males

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

In regular instances, it begins mid-afternoon with an occasion for younger boys — geared toward fostering curiosity in youthful generations. Within the night, the ten,000 or so male members spend an hour or two working across the temple grounds in preparation and purify themselves with freezing chilly water, earlier than cramming themselves into the primary temple constructing.

They are not as bare because the competition’s identify suggests. They sport a minimal quantity of clothes; normally a Japanese loincloth referred to as a “fundoshi” and a pair of white socks referred to as “tabi.”

On this image taken on February 18, 2017, worshippers watch for the priest to throw the sacred batons in the course of the annual Hadaka Matsuri at Saidaiji Temple in Okayama.

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/AFP through Getty Pictures

When the lights exit at 10 p.m., a priest throws 100 bundles of twigs and two fortunate 20-centimeter-long sacred shingi batons into the group from a window 4 meters above.

It is a scene that might be unthinkable immediately. The boys, packed in like sardines, jostle with one another to pay money for one of many bundles and/or the 2 sticks. Whoever succeeds is assured a yr of fine fortune, in accordance with legend. (The shingi are extra wanted than the less-coveted twigs, which could be taken dwelling.)

The entire occasion lasts round half-hour and members emerge with a couple of cuts, bruises and sprained joints.

Guests usually come from all throughout Japan and some from overseas to participate.

However occasion organizers confirmed to CNN Journey that this yr’s Hadaka Matsuri occasion, which occurred on February 20, was restricted to solely a choose, socially distanced group of 100 or so males who had caught the shingi in previous years, and was closed to spectators.

Fairly than battle for the batons, the lads gathered on the Saidaiji Kannonin Temple to wish for fertility, an finish to the pandemic and world peace, whereas observing security measures together with 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 a part of the Bare Competition, members purify themselves with freezing chilly water earlier than getting into the primary temple.

Trevor Williams/Getty Pictures AsiaPac/Getty Pictures

Why not simply cancel all the occasion?

In a press release highlighting their causes for going forward with a severely downsized model of the competition, organizers famous that it is has continued uninterrupted for over 500 years.

“In discussion with the chief priest and committee members, we have reached the conclusion that we need to pray (for) Eyo now,” stated Saijaiji Eyo chairman Minoru Omori. Eyo pertains to a time period referred to as “ichiyo-raifuku,” which suggests “to withstand the harsh, cold winter and reach the warmth of spring.”

“In other words, we pray for good luck after continuous bad things,” stated Omori.

The Bare Competition developed from a ritual that began 500 years in the past in the course of the Muromachi Interval (1338-1573), when villagers competed to seize paper talismans, which got out by a priest on the Saidaiji Kannonin Temple.

An increasing number of villagers needed these fortunate paper talismans and the ritual grew in dimension. However they realized that after they went to seize the paper it ripped. Their garments simply bought in the way in which too, so that they ultimately did away with them and exchanged paper for wooden, defined Mieko Itano, a spokeswoman from the Okayama tourism board, in a 2020 interview with CNN Journey.

With its lengthy heritage, the competition was additionally designated an Vital Intangible People Cultural Asset in 2016. It is one in every of a number of “naked festivals” held throughout Japan, with one other held at Yotsukaido in Chiba prefecture, that includes males in loincloths combating and carrying children via mud as a way of exorcism.

Japan and Covid-19

Day by day Covid-19 instances have been in decline in latest weeks in Japan, although Tokyo is amongst a number of prefectures underneath a state of emergency to manage the virus. The nation has reported greater than 424,000 Covid-19 instances and greater than 7,000 deaths.

The pandemic compelled organizers to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Summer time Olympics final yr, with the video games set to start on July 23, 2021.

Tokyo officers at the moment are grappling with the difficulty of pull off what might show to be the most complex sporting event ever held — one involving greater than 11,000 athletes from greater than 200 nations.



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