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