Having arrived in Japan with little warning or preparation, I was not getting my hopes up for 4 days packed with interesting things to do. Luckily, my friend Tyler delivered. He informed me that my visit lined up with his long weekend, and we were going to a festival in a village on the north side of Kyushu Island. Not just any festival. A “naked man” festival.

What’s a Naked Man Festival? Well, from what I gathered from observing and drinking sake is that a Naked Man Festival is an annual ceremony in Bungo-Takada, Japan, where the village celebrates their autumn harvest and prays for a bountiful harvest the next year. This is where the naked men come in. In order to ensure a healthy harvest the next year, then men of the village don white jackets, headbands & speedos and carry a Shinto shrine from one side of the river to the other. In preparation for this feat, they spend all morning drinking sake in every restaurant on one side of the river. While carrying the shrine they stop every few meters so someone can climb onto the shrine a shout a pray for the next year. It takes a few hours to do all the carrying and shouting so the rest of the village is entertained firstly by archers shooting flaming arrows a giant torch followed by some amazing drumming.

Once the shrine is securely on the far side of the river, the bare-assed men go right back to drinking sake at every restaurant in town. They need their strength for the next day…when they have to take the shrine back to its home on the other side of the river.

Welcome to Bungo-Takada
This gent kicked off the call for prayers/blessings
Some more folks shouting blessings from the shrine
I was told all these paper airplanes have prayers for the next harvest on them
And then they were off!
Time to hit the sake tent! This woman made sure I wasn't planning to drive before she served me 😊🍶
Checking back in on the lads hard at work
That sneaky caucasian was our host for the festival
And then archers in traditional dress shot flaming arrows into this torch. If you look closely, you can see an arrow sticking out.
Cue the taiko performance!
The Scene
Giant flaming torch: ✅
Taiko drums: ✅
Naked men carrying the shrine out of the far side of the river: ✅
Just before they got the shrine to its resting place for the night.
Just one more of the 🔥

Note: this post originally appeared on the (now defunct) site amerikanjohn.com