Japanese festival sees thousands of men naked

Dressed in only white loincloths, 10,000 men gathered at a Japanese temple over the weekend to scramble for a pair of lucky sticks.

Dressed in only white loincloths, 10,000 men gathered at a Japanese temple over the weekend to scramble for a pair of lucky sticks.

The men were taking part in Hadaka Matsuri - or the Naked Man Festival - which takes place every year at the Saidaiji Kannon-in temple in Okayama City in western Japan.

The men shoved each other for more than an hour on Saturday night in hopes of retrieving the lucky batons, thrown by a priest into the crowd.

Japanese festival sees thousands of men naked

The men were taking part in Hadaka Matsuri - or the Naked Man Festival - which takes place every year at the Saidaiji Kannon-in temple in Okayama City in western Japan

The men donned white Japanese loincloths, put on with the help of their peers, before stepping into cold fountains, where they purified their bodies with water, before heading into the temple.

It's a cold outfit for a February night in Okayama, where temperatures can reach below freezing.

At 10pm, the lights were turned off in the temple and the sacred sticks were thrown into the crowd from a four-meter high window.

They then battled fiercely with each other in a bid to grab the pair of lucky sticks - known as the shingi.

The winners are dubbed 'fuku otoko', or lucky men, and are promised a year of good fortune.

According to Japanese tradition, the person who catches the batons and thrusts them in a wooden measuring box, called the masu, is blessed with 12 months of luck and happiness.

Japanese festival sees thousands of men naked

The men shoved each other for more than an hour in hopes of retrieving the lucky batons, thrown by a priest into the crow

The unusual event - one of the most vibrant festivals in Japan - dates back 500 years when worshippers used to compete to receive paper talismans thrown by the priest.

Over the years, an increasing number of people receiving these talismans possessed good fortune - encouraging more worshippers to turn up.

However, the talismans were later changed to wooden sticks due to the fragile nature of paper.

The Hadaka Matsuri is not the only festival in Japan which requires participants to bare all.

The ancient Shinto festival of Kanchu Misogi - a winter purification ritual that is supposed to cleanse the body and soul and bring worshippers closer to mystical spirits, which they believe can bring them success - has about 100 participants each year.

In temperatures that hit just above freezing, the participants strip down to loincloths and headbands before taking a dip in the pool at Teppozu Inari Shinto shrine.

They then crouched down in the freezing water to pray - before hugging large blocks of ice./.

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