(CNN) — This time a 12 months in the past, hundreds accrued for Japan’s annual Hadaka Matsuri — additionally popularly referred to as the “Bare Competition”– in Okayama prefecture within the southern a part of Honshu island.
In lately’s local weather of social distancing, the video highlights from closing 12 months’s match (see above) are a surreal reminder of the way a lot has modified since then.
Sometimes called Saidaiji Eyo, Hadaka Matsuri takes position at the 3rd Saturday of February on the Saidaiji Kannonin Temple, a few 30-minute educate experience from Okayama town. And this 12 months used to be no exception.
However the Covid-19 pandemic has solid its lengthy shadow over 2021 court cases, forcing organizers to pare issues down considerably.
A fight between 10,000 males
Hadaka Matsuri celebrates the blessings of a bountiful harvest, prosperity and fertility.
In customary instances, it begins mid-afternoon with an match for younger boys — geared toward fostering hobby in more youthful generations. Within the night time, the 10,000 or so male individuals spend an hour or two operating across the temple grounds in preparation and purify themselves with freezing chilly water, ahead of cramming themselves into the principle temple development.
They are not as bare because the competition’s title suggests. They game a minimum quantity of clothes; normally a Eastern loincloth known as a “fundoshi” and a couple of white socks known as “tabi.”
On this image taken on February 18, 2017, worshippers look forward to the priest to throw the sacred batons right through the once a year Hadaka Matsuri at Saidaiji Temple in Okayama.
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/AFP by means of Getty Pictures
When the lighting fixtures pass out at 10 p.m., a clergyman throws 100 bundles of twigs and two fortunate 20-centimeter-long sacred shingi batons into the gang from a window 4 meters above.
It is a scene that may be unthinkable lately. The lads, packed in like sardines, jostle with each and every different to pay money for some of the bundles and/or the 2 sticks. Whoever succeeds is assured a 12 months of excellent fortune, in step with legend. (The shingi are extra wanted than the less-coveted twigs, which may also be taken house.)
The entire match lasts round 30 mins and individuals emerge with a couple of cuts, bruises and sprained joints.
Guests in most cases come from all throughout Japan and a couple of from out of the country to participate.
However match organizers showed to CNN Trip that this 12 months’s Hadaka Matsuri match, which came about on February 20, used to be restricted to just a make a choice, socially distanced workforce of 100 or so males who had stuck the shingi in previous years, and used to be closed to spectators.
Quite than fight for the batons, the lads accrued on the Saidaiji Kannonin Temple to hope for fertility, an finish to the pandemic and global peace, whilst staring at protection measures together with social distancing.
Uninterrupted for 500 years
As a part of the Bare Competition, individuals purify themselves with freezing chilly water ahead of getting into the principle temple.
Trevor Williams/Getty Pictures AsiaPac/Getty Pictures
Why now not simply cancel all the match?
In a remark highlighting their causes for going forward with a significantly downsized model of the competition, organizers famous that it is has endured uninterrupted for over 500 years.
“In dialogue with the executive priest and committee individuals, we have now reached the belief that we wish to pray (for) Eyo now,” mentioned Saijaiji Eyo chairman Minoru Omori. Eyo pertains to a time period known as “ichiyo-raifuku,” because of this “to resist the cruel, chilly wintry weather and achieve the heat of spring.”
“In different phrases, we pray for excellent success after steady unhealthy issues,” mentioned Omori.
The Bare Competition developed from a ritual that began 500 years in the past right through the Muromachi Duration (1338-1573), when villagers competed to grasp paper talismans, that have been given out via a clergyman on the Saidaiji Kannonin Temple.
Increasingly villagers sought after the ones fortunate paper talismans and the ritual grew in measurement. However they learned that after they went to grasp the paper it ripped. Their garments simply were given in the best way too, so that they ultimately did away with them and exchanged paper for wooden, defined Mieko Itano, a spokeswoman from the Okayama tourism board, in a 2020 interview with CNN Trip.
With its lengthy heritage, the competition used to be additionally designated an Essential Intangible People Cultural Asset in 2016. It is considered one of a number of “bare gala’s” held throughout Japan, with any other held at Yotsukaido in Chiba prefecture, that includes males in loincloths combating and sporting children via dust as a technique of exorcism.
Japan and Covid-19
Day-to-day Covid-19 circumstances had been in decline in contemporary weeks in Japan, despite the fact that Tokyo is amongst a number of prefectures beneath a state of emergency to regulate the virus. The rustic has reported greater than 424,000 Covid-19 circumstances and greater than 7,000 deaths.
The pandemic pressured organizers to delay the Tokyo 2020 Summer time Olympics closing 12 months, with the video games set to start on July 23, 2021.