Jan 19, 2016

The Naked Man Festival of Japan

You can see lots of public penises in Prague, but if you want to see real, live naked men, head for Japan.

When I was in Osaka in 1986, I noticed that there were many more opportunities to see the nude male body than in the U.S. or Europe.  Men hung around naked at home, among friends, at the medicinal hot springs (onsen), in non-gay bath houses.

And there are many naked festivals, hadaka matsuri, in which hundreds of men wear nothing but fundoshis (ceremonial loincloths) that display the backside.

Displaying the penis is frowned upon (photo by Nicholas Amheiser), but baskets and pubic hair are fine.

Usually the festivals are held in the summer, but the most famous, called Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri, is held in February in Okayama, about an hour by bus from Osaka.

The temperature is in the 30s, but the 9,000 nearly-naked men generate a lot of body heat.

They are struggling over possession of two wooden sticks (ofuda), tokens of good luck for the coming year, that are thrown out of a window at midnight by a Shinto priest.

You pull and grab the tokens from people's hands, tackle the men who have them, and so on; it develops into a gigantic mass of bodies, all struggling, grabbing, groping, until the victor manages to shove them into a box full of rice.  There are also 100 willow sticks that provide lesser luck.

The day before the festival, there's another hadaka matsuri with elementary school boys in fundoshis competing over rice cakes.

Foreigners can participate, and a few hundred do.  Most are content just to watch the endless parade of beefcake.

While you're in Okayama, you should also visit Okayama Castle and the Yumeji Art Museum.

See also the Penis Festival of Kawasaki, Japan, and the semi-nude British tradition, the Boxing Day Dip.

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