The Owari Okunitama Shrine, also known as Konomiya Shrine, is a significant Shinto shrine in Inazawa, Aichi Prefecture, Japan. Its roots date back to the Nara period as the soja of Owari Province, indicating its central role in the region’s spiritual life. The main deity enshrined is Okuninushi, with links to the ancestral spirits of Owari. The shrine boasts architectural marvels from the Muromachi and Edo periods, with structures like the Rōmon and Heiden designated Important Cultural Properties. This shrine, embodying deep historical and cultural values, celebrates its main festival annually on May 6.
The Hadaka Matsuri, or “Naked man Festival”
The Hadaka Matsuri, or Naked Festival, is an event that dates back to 767 AD and continues to draw thousands of people each year to the Owari Okunitama Jinja Shrine, also known as Konomiya Jinja Shrine, in Inazawa City. On the 13th day of the lunar calendar, usually in February or early March, a sea of men adorned only in white cotton loincloths and traditional headbands converge upon the shrine. Their mission is to dispel evil spirits and disease through a unique and physically demanding ritual that has been performed for centuries.
The festival revolves around the Shin Otoko, meaning the ‘lucky man.’ This individual, a young local selected for the role, embodies the essence of the festival’s purifying powers. On the day of the Hadaka Matsuri, he runs completely naked, free of any body hair, across the shrine grounds. This symbolic act forms the heart of the festival’s purifying ritual. Thousands of participants pursue the Shin Otoko, each vying to touch him. This chase is not merely a spectacle; it is a deeply ingrained belief that contact with the Shin Otoko transfers one’s bad luck and impurities to him, bringing good fortune in return. After braving the masses and their touch, the Shin Otoko returns to the shrine, laden with the collective sins and misfortunes of the community. His final prayers within the shrine’s sacred confines and subsequent symbolic expulsion from the town mark the community’s liberation from the past year’s adversities.
The Hadaka Matsuri is more than just a test of physical endurance in the winter chill; it is a testament to the resilience of tradition and the enduring nature of faith. Each year, as participants and spectators gather, they reaffirm a centuries-old tradition that binds the community and connects them to their history. For those looking to experience this unique aspect of Japanese culture, the Hadaka Matsuri offers a rare glimpse into a ritual that has withstood the test of time. Due to the lunar calendar, the exact date varies each year, so consulting reliable sources like the Aichi Tourism website is essential for planning a visit. In an age where modern life seems disconnected from historical roots, the Hadaka Matsuri is a vibrant reminder of Japan’s rich cultural tapestry, woven with rituals that speak of purification, renewal, and communal unity.
Hadaka Matsuri / The Naked Man Festival
Thursday, February 22, 2024
Owariokunitama Shrine (Konomiya Shrine)
1 Chome-1-1 Kounomiya, Inazawa, Aichi 492-8137 (map)