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‘Naked Festival’ where men battle each other for ‘holy stick’ goes ahead in Japan despite Covid fears


JAPAN’S “Naked Festival” where thousands of men strip down to battle for a “holy stick” has gone ahead despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The Hadaka Matsuri, which takes place at the Sadaiji Kannonin temple in Okayama prefecture, has been described as a “writhing ball of flesh”. 

Japan's 'Naked Festival' where thousands of men strip down to battle for a “holy stick” has gone ahead despite the coronavirus pandemic

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Japan’s ‘Naked Festival’ where thousands of men strip down to battle for a “holy stick” has gone ahead despite the coronavirus pandemicCredit: Reuters
Nude volunteers shove and push each other for over an hour to retrieve sacred batons

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Nude volunteers shove and push each other for over an hour to retrieve sacred batonsCredit: Kyodo News Stills – Getty
Thousands of men strip down to “fundoshi” loincloths for the festival

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Thousands of men strip down to “fundoshi” loincloths for the festivalCredit: Getty – Contributor

On the third Saturday of every February, volunteers wearing “fundoshi” loincloths shove and push each other for over an hour to retrieve sacred batons.

At around 10pm local time, the lights are switched off and the sacred sticks, which measure 4cm in diameter and 20cm in length, are chucked into the crowd.

The holy sticks, known as Shingi, are believed to bring good luck for an entire year to whoever manages to grab one.

The event last 30 minutes in total, and participants usually emerge with a few cuts and bruises.

But with coronavirus restrictions still in place across Japan, organisers admitted the celebrations were more “modest” this year – but refused to cancel the festival.

Priests at the Sadaiji Kannon-in temple instead allowed a smaller gathering of 100 young men to go ahead behind closed doors.

It was a stark contrast to the usual raucous festival, which has been known to draw up to 10,000 men at a time as well as a huge outdoor crowd.

Japan has seen its coronavirus cases decline in recent weeks, though Tokyo remains in a state of emergency to control the bug.

The festival dates back 500 years

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The festival dates back 500 yearsCredit: Kyodo News Stills – Getty
The winners of the festival are branded 'fuku otoko' - lucky men - after they have placed the sticks in a wooden measuring box

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The winners of the festival are branded ‘fuku otoko’ – lucky men – after they have placed the sticks in a wooden measuring boxCredit: Getty Images – Getty

The winners of the festival are branded ‘fuku otoko’ – lucky men – after they have placed the sticks in a wooden measuring box.

The Hadaka Matsuri dates back 500 years when worshippers used to compete for a paper talisman thrown by the priest.

Injuries are not uncommon at the festival, but severe injuries are rare.



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