Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri
A mysterious and exciting night festival.
Almost fully-naked men compete for good luck charms.
One of the three most eccentric festivals of Japan. Nine thousand men wearing only loincloths struggle fiercely with one another over a pair of lucky sacred sticks measuring 4 cm in diameter and 20 cm in length, thrown into the crowd by the priest from a window 4 m up. Anyone who luckily gets hold of the shingi and thrusts them upright in a wooden measuring box known as a masu which is heaped with rice is called the lucky man, and is blessed with a year of happiness. The other lucky items are bundles of willow strips, and although 100 of these are thrown into the crowd, it is not an easy task to catch them.
The origins of this festival date back 500 years when worshippers competed to receive paper talismans called Go-o thrown by the priest. These paper talismans were tokens of the completion of New Year ascetic training by the priests. As those people receiving these paper talismans had good things happen to them, the number of people requesting them increased year by year. However, as paper was easily torn, the talismans were changed to the wooden ofuda that we know today.
Shouting out 'Wasshoi! Wasshoi!' the almost fully naked men approach the precincts. Although this festival takes place in the cold season, the fervor of the men waiting impatiently is so strong that they seem to have difficulty breathing, which is why water is splashed over them. Precisely at midnight, the lights are turned off all at once, the sacred sticks are thrown into the crowd, and the vehement rush to grab the sticks starts. Even if someone is lucky enough to get hold of the sacred sticks, they are quickly snatched away by others, almost like a rugby game. Spectators usually crowd around the participants within the precincts of the shrine to experience all the thrills and excitement of the action. But if you wish to look on safely, there are seats available, though you have topay for them.
On the day of the festival, prior to the main event, there is a Hadaka Matsuri from 18:00 when primary school boys compete for rice cakes and cylindrical treasures.
[Walk]10 minutes' walk from Saidaiji Station.Saidaiji Station is on the JR Ako Line from Okayama Station on the Sanyo Shinkansen.
Place: Saidai-ji Temple,
Dates: Third Saturday of February
City: Saidaiji-naka, Okayama Prefecture