A historic festival typically involving up to 10,000 naked participants has taken place despite coronavirus fears.
The Hadaka Matsuri – or ‘Naked Festival’ – in Okyama, Japan which began almost 1,000 years ago, involves men battling with “holy sticks” and wearing nothing but loincloths and socks.
However, this year’s hugely popular event was toned down greatly to minimise the risk of the Covid-19 pandemic.
About 100 young people took part in the festival in the southern part of Japan’s Honshu Island.
Despite taking place through wars and other public health crises, organisers said they were forced into “modest” celebrations in light of the global outbreak.
In a statement, Minoru Omori, chairman of a temple that stages the event, said that even though they had to downsize, they wanted to ensure the “essence” of the festival, also known as Eyo, remained.
He said: “In discussion with the chief priest and committee members, we have reached the conclusion that we need to pray [for] Eyo now.
“In other words, we pray for good luck after continuous bad things.”
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Eyo relates to the Japanese term ‘ichiyo-raifuku’, meaning ‘to withstand the harsh, cold winter and reach the warmth of spring’.
Despite usually attracting thousands of spectators, the annual festival, which takes place on the third Saturday of February, was held behind closed doors.
The Hadaka Matsuri involves participants entering a freezing temple pool in darkness before sticks are launched at them.
It rarely lasts longer than an hour. Many people have been injured in the melee.
Japan has recorded around 426,500 Covid-19 cases and 7,500 deaths. The country launched vaccinations last week, ahead of this summer’s delayed Olympic Games in Tokyo.
By email@example.com (Steve Kelly)