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At the Saidaiji Temple in Okayama, Japanese Men Strip for the Naked Festival

Around 10,000 hardy souls formed a writhing mass of sweaty worshippers inside Saidaiji Temple in Okayama, western Japan for the Naked Man Festival (AFP Photo/Behrouz MEHRI)

Around 10,000 hardy souls formed a writhing mass of sweaty worshippers inside Saidaiji Temple in Okayama, western Japan for the Naked Man Festival (AFP Photo/Behrouz MEHRI)

Around 10,000 hardy souls celebrating the religious festival stepped under ice-cold fountains to purify their bodies before risking life and limb in a mysterious ceremony dating back some 500 years.

Okayama, Japan - Quentin Tyberghien reports: With only a skimpy loincloth to protect their modesty, thousands of men brave freezing temperatures to fight for lucky charms thrown by a priest at Japan's annual Naked Man Festival.
"You have to write down your blood type on a form and tuck it into your loincloth in case you get seriously hurt."
A writhing mass of sweaty worshippers wrestled for elbow-room inside Saidaiji Temple in Okayama, western Japan, late on Saturday night in the hope of catching the sacred batons. Around 10,000 hardy souls celebrating the religious festival stepped under ice-cold fountains to purify their bodies before risking life and limb in a mysterious ceremony dating back some 500 years. "It can get very rough," 62-year-old auto mechanic Kazuhiko Nishigami told AFP, bare-chested and ready to rumble. "You have to write down your blood type on a form and tuck it into your loincloth in case you get seriously hurt."
Japanese boys step out of a fountain after being purified during the boys' event in the annual Naked Man Festival or 'Hadaka Matsuri'at Saidaiji Temple in Okayama, western Japan (AFP Photo/Behrouz MEHRI)

Japanese boys step out of a fountain after being purified during the boys' event in the annual Naked Man Festival or 'Hadaka Matsuri'at Saidaiji Temple in Okayama, western Japan (AFP Photo/Behrouz MEHRI)

Most who took on the 'Hadaka Matsuri,' or Naked Festival, suffered no more than a few bumps and bruises after scrapping over a pair of wooden sticks, measuring 4cm (one and a half inches) in diameter and 20cm (eight inches) in length, believed to bring good fortune to whoever catches them.
In a scene reminiscent of Dante's 'Inferno', steam rises as thousands of groaning men, faces contorted with pain, thrust their arms upwards from the suffocating pit below, as if begging for forgiveness -- or if not a pair of trousers and a shirt to keep warm.
But revellers have been crushed to death in the past in a melee that makes Tokyo's infamous rush-hour trains look like a walk in the park. And it's easy to see how fatalities could occur when the lights suddenly go off and priests cast the mystical charms from the temple's rafters into the heaving crowd below.

As holy water was splashed from above, camera flashes illuminated the sea of bodies like disco lights at a rave — before all hell broke loose.

In a scene reminiscent of Dante’s “Inferno”, steam rises as thousands of groaning men, faces contorted with pain, thrust their arms upwards. … (read more)

Source: AFP

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