The naked festival (裸祭り)

The naked festival is a Japanese festival in which the participants go naked.

Summary

The naked festival is regarded as a festival to wish for the productiveness of grain in which adult men go naked and compete with each other.

In the agrarian society in Japan where farming equipment had not been modernized, it was the most necessary and important issue for farmer's families to have strong and tough men who worked hard. In order to maintain the family estate and family prosperity, strong and tough men were imperative. The festival was regarded as the most important event in the village, because the event in which men showed their naked body to the patriarch and women in the village turned into a meeting place for men looking for their future wives and for the parents of young women looking for irimuko (man who is adopted as the husband for a daughter). Especially for the second and third sons in a family who could not succeed the family estate, it was an important chance to be invited by the families who were looking for irimuko, and was also the only chance to show their sturdiness. It was also a place for widows to look for new husbands.

The naked festival often involves battles such as a battle over a sacred tree and so on, because the ability to win in such a battle symbolizes the strength and the reproductive capability and such ability suggests that the man can make a better worker in a farmer's family. Therefore, the participants in the naked festival were limited to adult men.

The naked festival, which includes an event in which men who have performed misogi (a cold-water purification ceremony) fight over the symbol of the festival (such as a sacred tree or a ball) in or outside the main hall of the shrine, is often held around midwinter time when the farmland lies idle. Since there is not much entertainment in winter in agrarian society, the festival was aimed for releasing the pent-up feelings. By evoking men's combative instinct, the festival could keep the young people from rampages. Also by letting men fight against each other naked in the severe cold weather, they could present themselves as strong.

There are also festivals held in summer such as fishermen carry a portable shrine, or festivals held around spring through fall such as men carry or pull a portable shrine or a festival car (float). Some shrines such as Kamisaibara-jinja Shrine in Kagamino-cho (former Kamisaibarason Village), Okayama Prefecture, abolished the traditional naked festival and switched to female sumo wrestling.