9,000 Naked Men in search of Wood

Yes, folks, it’s a festival and it’s been taking place in Japan for 500 years.

The Naked Man Festival (Hadaka Matsuri) is a little bit of a misnomer because participants are actually clad in a traditional fundoshi, a sumo wrestler-type loincloth that wraps around the crotch and flosses the butt cheeks.

Man’s eternal quest for good luck is what drives this festival. All someone has to do is to find one of two wooden sticks (a shingi) and insert it into a rice filled wooden box.

Hmmm… sounds rather like a metaphor, for something else, if you ask me.

The two participants who manage to accomplish this feat are then graced with good luck the rest of their lives.

Sounds easy, right? The only problem is that the sticks are dropped into a massive scrum of nearly naked Japanese males who all want the same thing.

9000 men, two wooden sticks, and one box; you can just imagine the mêlée which erupts when those sticks are dropped into the heart of the Saidaiji Temple (Okayama) at midnight on the third Saturday in February.

While I’m a big fan of participating in local events when traveling, I think I might pass on this one. We should, however, send our new Japanese correspondent Matthew Firestone over to don a loincloth and seek wood as part of his initiation into the Gadling ranks.

(Thanks to Steven C. for the tip)