For the first time ever, a group of women are set to feature in this year’s Hadaka Matsuri (naked festival) at Owari Okunitama Shrine, also known as Konomiya Shrine in the city of Inazawa, Aichi Prefecture.

A Semi-Naked Festival  

Despite the name, it’s actually more of a semi-naked festival as the men don mawashi (white fundoshi loincloths). At this year’s event, which takes place on February 22, around 40 women will join the festivities in happi coats. They won’t, however, be taking part in the momiai ritual, which can become quite rowdy. 

Prior to the momiai ceremony, women will participate in the naoizasa ritual, which sees people running into the shrine grounds carrying bamboo grass wrapped in cloth. Ayaka Suzuki, 36, the vice chair of Enyu-Kai, the group that pushed for females to be allowed to participate in the festival, expressed her excitement regarding the event at a press conference on Saturday. “I am happy because I have wanted to participate in this festival since I was a child,” she said. “We will be marking a new page in our history.” 

Naked Festival

The most famous Naked Festival is in Okayama | aslamas_ad via Shutterstock

Banishing Bad Luck  

The naked festival in Aichi is formally known as Naoi Shinji. Beginning on the 13th day of the lunar calendar, its origins trace back about 1,250 years. It started out as a cleansing ceremony to drive out plagues from the Owari (Aichi) region. Locals used to capture someone from outside the village to be their shin-otoko, meaning “man of god.” He was paraded through the village naked, and people would touch him in order to pass on their troubles to him. Afterward, the unfortunate man was banished, or in extreme cases, sacrificed.   

Declared illegal in 1744, the festival was eventually restored during the Meiji period, thankfully without the hitomigoku (human sacrifice). These days, the shin-otoko is chosen from a group of voluntary candidates on the second day of the lunar calendar. The day before the festival, he is purified and shaved from head to toe, except for his eyebrows. Then, on the day of the event, he appears fully naked, surrounded by former shin-otoko, who try to protect him from the crowd of semi-naked men desperately trying to touch him to pass on their bad luck. 

The festival is particularly popular for men aged 25, 42 and 61 as they are considered yakudoshi (unlucky years). Naked festivals are held in several destinations throughout Japan. The most renowned is probably the 500-year-old Saidaiji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri in Okayama.


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