Who wouldn’t want a year of happiness and benediction? Presumably, we all would – but how many of us would be prepared to grapple with almost 10,000 nearly-naked men to achieve the honour?
Every winter, thousands of young men brave the cold winter in nothing more than a revealing loincloth as they partake in Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri, one of Japan’s more eccentric festivals.
Prior to midnight, the scantily-clad men congregate in the streets of Okayama Prefecture, awaiting the beginning of the spectacle. As the clock strikes 12, all of the streetlights are simultaneously turned off and a priest, four metres above the baying crowd, appears at a window and throws a pair of blessed sacred sticks into their midst.
These sticks, known as shingi, are the object of the men’s attentions as they scramble frenetically to lay hands upon them, competing riotously with their rivals to plant the token in the masu, a wooden box filled with rice. Whoever successfully upends the shingi in the masu is said to have gained a year of luck, blessing and happiness.
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Paying spectators can watch the event from arranged seating, while those who wish to get up close and personal with the thronging masses can do so for free – but at their own peril!
In 2016 the festival will be celebrated on the 20th February.