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World Music Celebrations: Japan's Nude Festival

Flickr User: amanda-esque
Hadaka Matsuri Festival, 2006

Each week on World Music (Saturday nights from 8-10 on KSTX 89.1 FM), I take a look at celebrations happening around the world. This week, chasing the "naked man" in Japan!


In 767 BC a plague descended upon Japan.  The reigning emperor decided that a cleansing purification ceremony could take care of things, and so the Kounomiya Hadaka Matsuri Festival was born. Every year since then, thousands of men and boys clad only in loin cloths (fundoshi), take to the streets of Inawaza City. Their sole purpose is to touch the Shin-otokoa, or naked man. This hairless male is chased through the streets for over an hour until he reaches the Kounomiya Temple. By touching his naked body, the participant sheds all his troubles onto the chosen one. To be chosen as the naked one is a great honor and many men vie for the position. To cool the ardor of  men chasing the Shin-otokoa, special appointed body guards douse the throngs with ice cold water. Needless to say the whole chase is bathed in steam arising from the over heated running bodies. The finale takes place in a forest at night, when all the evils collected by the naked man are discharged into the darkness.

You can hear more about this and other celebrations happening around the world this and every Saturday on World Music with Deirdre Saravia, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM.

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Deirdre as born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and her first paid work was at the age of 10 with the BBC as an actress on "Children's Hour." She continued to perform regularly on radio and stage for the next eight years, at which point she was informed by her parents that theater was not an option and she needed "real" work.