Third Saturday of February – Saidaiji Eyo Naked Man Festival – Men, clad only in loincloths race toward Saldaiji Templein in Okayama to collect lucky sticks. Register in advance with Saldaiji temple and buy a loincloth. 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. 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.
Late April to May – Steamed Buns on Bamboo – The festival takes place in Hong Kong on or around Buddha’s Birthday. Contestants climb a giant bamboo tower covered in Chinese steamed buns. Buns picked from the top of the bamboo tower or taken on the backs of the contestants to the top are consider luckier than ones at the bottom. Climbers try to grab as many lucky buns as they can in three minutes. Hard to reach buns give extra points. Or you could simply go for the prestigious Full Pockets of Lucky Buns award. This is won by the climber who grabs the most buns in three minutes. There is also a rather exciting team-relay event. The week-long festivities includes incense, prayers for prosperity and health, and offerings to festival’s god, Pak Tai. Wander the grounds and sample the incredible variety of steamed buns. See the festival’s spectacular parade, elaborate lion and unicorndances and marching bands. Witness the martial arts demonstrations. Don’t miss the “Floating Children” parade where children dress as Chinese deities. They sit on stands so high that they appear to be floating.
– Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef, Ph.D.
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