Historic inclusion: Women to join Japan’s ‘naked man festival’ for the first time in 1,250 years

NEW DELHI: The Konomiya Shrine in Inazawa, Japan, renowned for its annual Naked Man Festival, is set to welcome women participants for the first time in its 1,250-year history, The Independent reported. This historic shift comes as part of a broader effort to ensure the continuation of cultural practices in a community that is facing a declining population.
The Hadaka Matsuri, held every February, celebrates harvest abundance, prosperity, and fertility.While men traditionally engage in a near-naked clash wearing loincloths, a group of around 40 local women will contribute to the festival by participating in the naoizasa ritual. Though fully clothed, they will carry bamboo grass wrapped in cloth into the shrine grounds.
Due to the pandemic in 2023, the bamboo grass offering incorporated both half-naked and clothed formats. For the upcoming 2024 edition, the women’s group plans to dedicate the bamboo grass separately from the men’s ceremony.
Ayaka Suzuki, 36, Vice Chair of a women’s group advocating for this inclusion, expressed her long-held desire to partake in the festival and was quoted in the Yomiuri Shimbun highlighting her childhood thoughts, saying, ‘I could have participated if I were a boy!’ Suzuki plans to pray for her family’s safety and for those affected by the recent Noto Peninsula earthquake.
Around 10,000 participants are expected to join the festival, which kicks off at 3:20 pm local time. Mitsugu Katayama, an official of the organizing committee, stated that the decision to involve women was driven by the increased interest from the community, especially during the past three years of pandemic restrictions.
As per The Independent, local women and gender activists have applauded this decision, considering it a positive step toward equality. This move is not only seen as a cultural milestone but also as a response to the demographic challenges faced by rural communities, aiming to ensure the continuation of cultural practices. The community is facing a population crisis due to young people migrating to cities for employment. This has left the town to be inhabited predominantly by the elderly and infirm.
During the festival, half-stripped men strive to seize one of the two 20cm-long shingi—wooden sticks tossed by a priest into the gathering. Amidst 100 bundles of twigs, these sticks are hurled with the intention of bestowing a year of good fortune upon the fortunate individual who manages to catch one.”
(With agency inputs)

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