NAKED MAN FESTIVAL
The Hadaka Matsuri, or Naked Man Festival, is a purification ritual that takes place on Coming of Age Day in January at Aoshima Shrine. Aoshima-jinja is located on a small island of the same name off the coast of Miyazaki.
Although similar festivals are celebrated throughout the country, Naked Man at Aoshima has a unique origin story. It is said that the god Yamasachihiko, upon returning from the Dragon Palace under the sea, was greeted by naked men off the shores of Aoshima. Despite its name, the festival is open to both men and women.
Participants in the festival gather at a local hotel before running across the bridge to the island in a blur of skin and cloth. The men wear only a fundoshi (loin cloth) and tabi (socks). The women wear a short happi (coat).
After they arrive, they are led into a short warm-up exercise, before gathering at the ocean’s entrance. Slowly, the participants lower their bodies into the icy water until they are shoulder-deep. After about 10 minutes, they run out again and are blessed by a priest at the shrine. Then the ceremony is completed, and the participants return to the hotel to drink hot tea and take a bath in the onsen.
Visitors can enjoy taiko and dance performances, a visit to the shrine, or a walk around the island, which is just 1.5 km (0.9 mi) in circumference. A New Year’s Dragon also snakes through the crowd, ‘biting’ people on the head for good luck.