If you happen to be in Japan on the third Saturday of February, you might wish to see the Naked Man Festival. The best one is reportedly held in Okayama, although how they decided this is difficult to measure. The men, clad only in loincloths race toward Saldaiji Temple to collect lucky sticks. I can just see a naked man saying, “Honestly officer, I’m not fleeing an enraged husband. I’m participating in the Naked Man Festival.” The officer will roll his eyes. “Like I haven’t heard that one before.”
Participants need to register in advance with Saldaiji temple and buy a loincloth. It’s February. You will be cold. Then you run around the temple for two hours and through a fountain of frigid water. This purifies your body and soul. Fully purified, the race becomes competitive. Indeed, the event has become quite a team sport with many teams sponsored by local businesses. The goal is to catch one of two wooden sticks, shingi, thrown into the racers midst by a temple priest. Catching a shingi confers good fortune for a entire year.
Spectators vie for 100 lucky items thrown in the crowd. These items aren’t as lucky as the shingi, but you don’t have to strip nearly naked and run through a fountain of icy water either.
Amazingly enough, there’s a more subdued version of this for the local children. This strengthens the bonds between residents.
Tourists can shop at the excitingly named street of Go Fuku Dori.
– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef, Ph.D.
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