Japan’s Famed ‘Naked Man’ Festival Held One Last Time


Amid growing concerns over an ageing population and declining childbirths, a weird Japanese festival that features almost-naked men fighting over a hemp bag filled with charms took place for one last time on February 17 in Iwate prefecture, according to Asahi Shimbun, one of the largest newspapers in Japan.

Every year, thousands of men dressed in loincloths brave the bitter cold of Tohoku winter to compete in the renowned ‘Somin-sai’ festival.

The Kokusekiji temple said since the participants are growing too old for the event, a decision was taken to end the festival that has a 1000-year long history in Japan.

Quoting the statement from the temple, Asahi Shimbun reported that there is also a shortage of successors to carry on the tradition.

Meanwhile, in the famed ‘Naked Man’ festival that was organised for the last time yesterday, the participants, who were just wearing loincloths called ‘fundoshi’, carried square lanterns and bathed in the Yamauchigawa River.

After praying for a bountiful harvest and other blessings in the Yakushido hall of the temple, they got into a brawl over a hemp sack known as a ‘somin-bukuro’ that held little talismans.

It is said the person who takes a talisman will subsequently be shielded from any kind of misfortune or disaster.

Meanwhile, in Saidaji Temple, located in Okayama prefecture, western Japan, the ‘naked festival’, also known as the ‘Eyo festival’ there, was celebrated. It included the tradition of semi-naked men scrambling to catch a pair of wooden sticks said to bring good luck, according to NHK World.

The tradition is one of Japan’s intangible folk cultural treasures.

The event, which had been postponed for the previous three years owing to the coronavirus pandemic, drew about 9,000 males to the Okayama temple festival.

Since the 1980s economic boom, Japan’s population has been steadily declining, with a fertility rate of 1.3, significantly lower than the 2.1 required to sustain a stable population in the absence of immigration, according to CNN.

The number of deaths in the country has exceeded the number of births for over ten years, causing increasing concern among the leaders of the fourth-largest economy globally.

The nation boasts one of the longest life expectancies globally, which also contributes to the rapidly growing senior population. (ANI)

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