Every February in a small town in a Chiba called Yotsukaido there is a great festival known as the Warabi Hadaka matsuri- also known as the naked festival. The festival is held to bring good luck and protection to the towns babies.
The festival starts with a procession of mostly naked men, clad just in loincloths, coming down the hill from the Mimusubi shrine to a small rice paddy where the majority of the festival takes place. The men each carry a young baby to the paddy, many of whom are dressed in elaborate kimonos, and use a piece of straw to paint mud onto the baby’s face as a blessing. Be careful though! If you get too close the men may decide to bless you too and leave you with a muddy face!
Once they’ve finished with the blessings the fun part of the festival begins! The men all come running down the hill from the shrine to the rice paddy and get into teams with one member riding on the rest of the team’s shoulders in a kind of group piggyback. Then, they start wrestling and trying to knock all the other teams down into the cold water and mud of the rice paddy!
After each bout they all run back up the hill and huddle together around a big bonfire in the shrine to try and warm back up for a few minutes before they run back down for another match!
It’s pretty cold in Yotsukaido in February and I was glad of my big jumper and jacket so the men taking part in the festival must have been freezing! They still looked like they were having fun though and by the time they’d finished they were all covered in mud from head to toe!.
Mimusubi Jinja Access