9,000 half-naked men fight for sacred sticks

Clad in loincloths only, 9,000 men grapple with one another in the annual battle to be the owner of a pair of lucky sticks.

Hadaka Matsuri Festival

It might sound rather wacky, but the Hadaka Matsuri festival is a sacred and eccentric tradition in Japan which sees half-naked men vie for the ownership of the wooden sticks, called shingi.

Thrown into the baying mob by a priest, the man who successfully attains the shingi and manages to get them, upright, into a wooden box is said to be blessed with an entire year of happiness.

The 500-year-old festival at the Saidaiji Temple in the city of Okayama also sees other lucky charms thrown into the crowd such as bundles of willow strips.

At midnight the lights are turned off, the 20cm-long sticks are thrown into the crowd, and, shouting ‘Wasshoi! Wasshoi!’, the men attempt to grab the sacred charms from one another.

Naked Festival

The event, which is also known as the Naked Festival, happens every year on the third Saturday of February.

In its infancy half a millennium ago, participants would jostle for talismans made of paper but, because they were easily torn, the items had to be changed to something more durable.

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