Kōnomiya Hadaka Matsuri – Naked Man Festival

Men waving banners while semi-naked at the Hadaka Matsuri in Inazawa, AIchi, Japan.

I’ve never been to the main event. Mainly because it’s usually takes place at around 3 am in early February with thousands of people and the occasional death. It was also postponed for a few years due to the pandemic but things got back to normal last year.

The festival, known as the Hadaka Matsuri (裸祭り) is held in Kōnomiya (国府宮), Inazawa (稲沢) to the north of Nagoya, although there are others throughout Japan.

From Wikipedia:

One of the biggest and oldest festivals is the Owari Ōkunitama Shrine Hadaka Matsuri held in Inazawa, where the festival originated over 1300 years ago. Every year, men participate in this festival in hopes of gaining luck for the entire year. The most famous part of the festival is when the “shin-otoko” (神男) enter the stage and has to find a way back to the shrine, called “naoiden”. The participating men must try and touch the “shin-otoko” to transfer their bad luck to the “shin-otoko”. During the night time ceremony, all the bad luck is transferred in a charcoal coloured giant mochi. The black mochi is made with rice mixed with the ashes of the burned Omamori from last year. The mochi is then buried in a secret location in the nearby forest.

The men participating only wear a fundoshi and tabi.

The last time I visited was in 2019. It was more fun and productive to walk the surrounding streets photographing the edges of the main shrine as opposed to the main (daytime) event. There are usually too many people (many partially naked and often drunk) so getting a good angle for photos requires a giant step ladder, special access, or the dexterity of a ninja. Sometimes all three. And this time my daughter came along too so keeping an eye on her took up half of my energy.

One of the main things I enjoy about this festival and local festivals in general is that they happen every year (in non-pandemic times) which means you can return again and again, year after year, gradually adding to a portfolio of images that over a decade or even longer has the potential to become a comprehensive body of work.

But one year I’ll need to pluck up the courage to visit in the middle of the night.

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