For the first time in its 1,250-year history, the Konomiya shrine in Inazawa, Japan, is allowing women to participate in the renowned Naked Man festival.
Women’s Role in the Annual Hadaka Matsuri
A group of about 40 local women from Japan’s Aichi prefecture will be part of the annual Hadaka Matsuri held in February, albeit without the traditional near-naked clash of men. They will participate in the naoizasa ritual, carrying bamboo grass wrapped in cloth into the shrine grounds.
Unique Attire and Rituals
While men wear a minimal ensemble consisting of a fundoshi (Japanese loincloth) and tabi (white socks), the women will remain fully clothed. The festival, celebrating harvest, prosperity, and fertility, begins at around 3.20 pm local time.
Pandemic Impact and Adjustments
In 2023, due to the pandemic, the bamboo grass offering was conducted in both half-naked and clothed formats. For the 2024 edition, the women’s group plans to dedicate the bamboo grass separately from the men’s ceremony.
Advocacy for Inclusion
Ayaka Suzuki, vice chair of a women’s group advocating for women’s inclusion, expressed her desire to participate since childhood, citing gender restrictions. She emphasized praying for her family’s safety and those affected by recent earthquakes.
Anticipated Participation and Community Support
Around 10,000 people are expected to participate. Mitsugu Katayama, an official, mentioned the festival’s adaptation due to the pandemic and the increasing requests from women in the town to take part.
Positive Reactions and Broader Demographic Challenge
The decision has been praised by local women and gender activists, considering it a positive step towards gender equality. Some speculate that the decision may address demographic challenges in rural areas with declining populations.
Cultural Preservation Amid Demographic Changes
As many rural communities face population decline, there is a belief that increased participation in ancient traditions, regardless of gender, is crucial for preserving cultural practices. The hope is to keep these traditions alive for future generations.
Unique Festival Highlights
In the festival, half-stripped men aim to catch 20cm-long wooden sticks thrown by a priest, believed to bring good fortune for a year. This unique tradition adds to the cultural significance of the Hadaka Matsuri at the Konomiya shrine.