February 18, 2024
Historic Shift: Women Allowed to Participate in Japan's Naked Man Festival
World Asia Japan

Historic Shift: Women Allowed to Participate in Japan’s Naked Man Festival

Historic Shift: Women Allowed to Participate in Japan’s Naked Man Festival

Historic Shift: Women Allowed to Participate in Japan’s Naked Man Festival

In a groundbreaking move, the Konomiya Shrine in Inazawa town, Japan, has decided to allow women to participate in the traditional ‘Hadaka Matsuri’ or ‘naked man’ festival for the first time in its 1650-year history. The festival, scheduled for February 22, has been a men-only affair, but this year, 40 women will be partaking in specific rituals, marking a significant shift in tradition.

Dressed Participation: A Step Toward Equality

While the festival typically involves thousands of men in minimal clothing, the women participants will remain fully clothed, adorned in traditional happi coats. They will engage in the ‘naoizasa’ ritual, carrying bamboo grass wrapped in cloth into the shrine grounds. The decision has been applauded by local women and gender activists, viewing it as a positive step toward gender equality.

Pandemic Impact and Voluntary Absence

The festival has faced disruptions in the past three years due to the pandemic. During this time, women in the town expressed interest in participating, leading to the decision to include them this year. While there was no active ban on women in the past, they tended to stay away from the festival voluntarily.

Hadaka Matsuri Rituals: Unique Traditions and Beliefs

During the ‘Hadaka Matsuri,’ thousands of men traditionally wear minimal clothing, often using a Japanese loincloth called ‘fundoshi’ along with white socks. Rituals involve running around the temple grounds, purifying themselves with cold water, and then heading towards the main temple. The participants engage in a lively tussle to find two lucky sticks thrown by the temple priest among 100 bundles of twigs. Locating the sticks is believed to bring good luck for the year. The event concludes with men seeking to touch the ‘chosen man’ or ‘shin-otoko’ for added fortune, often resulting in stampede-like situations and injuries.

This historic inclusion of women in certain festival rituals represents a noteworthy departure from longstanding traditions, fostering a more inclusive approach to cultural celebrations.

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