(CNN) — This time a yr in the past, hundreds gathered for Japan’s annual Hadaka Matsuri — additionally popularly often known as the “Bare Pageant”– in Okayama prefecture within the southern a part of Honshu island.
In in the present day’s local weather of social distancing, the video highlights from final yr’s occasion (see above) are a surreal reminder of how a lot has modified since then.
Also referred to as Saidaiji Eyo, Hadaka Matsuri takes place on the third Saturday of February on the Saidaiji Kannonin Temple, a few 30-minute prepare trip from Okayama metropolis. And this yr was no exception.
However the Covid-19 pandemic has solid its lengthy shadow over 2021 proceedings, forcing organizers to pare issues down considerably.
A battle between 10,000 males
Hadaka Matsuri celebrates the blessings of a bountiful harvest, prosperity and fertility.
In regular occasions, it begins mid-afternoon with an occasion for younger boys — geared toward fostering curiosity in youthful generations. Within the night, the ten,000 or so male individuals spend an hour or two operating across the temple grounds in preparation and purify themselves with freezing chilly water, earlier than cramming themselves into the principle temple constructing.
They don’t seem to be as bare because the competition’s identify suggests. They sport a minimal quantity of clothes; normally a Japanese loincloth referred to as a “fundoshi” and a pair of white socks referred to as “tabi.”
On this image taken on February 18, 2017, worshippers anticipate the priest to throw the sacred batons in the course of the annual Hadaka Matsuri at Saidaiji Temple in Okayama.
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/AFP by way of Getty Photographs
When the lights exit at 10 p.m., a priest throws 100 bundles of twigs and two fortunate 20-centimeter-long sacred shingi batons into the group from a window 4 meters above.
It is a scene that may be unthinkable in the present day. The boys, packed in like sardines, jostle with one another to pay money for one of many bundles and/or the 2 sticks. Whoever succeeds is assured a yr of fine fortune, based on legend. (The shingi are extra wanted than the less-coveted twigs, which might be taken house.)
The entire occasion lasts round half-hour and individuals emerge with just a few cuts, bruises and sprained joints.
Guests usually come from all throughout Japan and some from overseas to participate.
However occasion organizers confirmed to CNN Journey that this yr’s Hadaka Matsuri occasion, which happened on February 20, was restricted to solely a choose, socially distanced group of 100 or so males who had caught the shingi in previous years, and was closed to spectators.
Reasonably than battle for the batons, the lads gathered on the Saidaiji Kannonin Temple to wish for fertility, an finish to the pandemic and world peace, whereas observing security measures together with social distancing.
Uninterrupted for 500 years
As a part of the Bare Pageant, individuals purify themselves with freezing chilly water earlier than coming into the principle temple.
Trevor Williams/Getty Photographs AsiaPac/Getty Photographs
Why not simply cancel your entire occasion?
In an announcement highlighting their causes for going forward with a severely downsized model of the competition, organizers famous that it is has continued uninterrupted for over 500 years.
“In dialogue with the chief priest and committee members, now we have reached the conclusion that we have to pray (for) Eyo now,” stated Saijaiji Eyo chairman Minoru Omori. Eyo pertains to a time period referred to as “ichiyo-raifuku,” which suggests “to face up to the tough, chilly winter and attain the heat of spring.”
“In different phrases, we pray for good luck after steady dangerous issues,” stated Omori.
The Bare Pageant advanced from a ritual that began 500 years in the past in the course of the Muromachi Interval (1338-1573), when villagers competed to seize paper talismans, which got out by a priest on the Saidaiji Kannonin Temple.
Increasingly more villagers needed these fortunate paper talismans and the ritual grew in dimension. However they realized that after they went to seize the paper it ripped. Their garments simply acquired in the way in which too, in order that they ultimately did away with them and exchanged paper for wooden, defined Mieko Itano, a spokeswoman from the Okayama tourism board, in a 2020 interview with CNN Journey.
With its lengthy heritage, the competition was additionally designated an Essential Intangible Folks Cultural Asset in 2016. It is certainly one of a number of “bare festivals” held throughout Japan, with one other held at Yotsukaido in Chiba prefecture, that includes males in loincloths combating and carrying children by means of mud as a technique of exorcism.
Japan and Covid-19
Day by day Covid-19 instances have been in decline in current weeks in Japan, although Tokyo is amongst a number of prefectures below a state of emergency to manage the virus. The nation has reported greater than 424,000 Covid-19 instances and greater than 7,000 deaths.
The pandemic compelled organizers to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Summer season Olympics final yr, with the video games set to start on July 23, 2021.