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NY Post
New York Post
24 Feb 2024


NextImg:Japan’s ‘Naked Man Festival’ sees hundreds of scantily-clad men wrestle for last time in millennia

Just another tradition killed by millennials.

Japan’s infamous “Naked Man Festival” is coming to an end after more than 1,000 years due to a declining youth population.

The millennia-old Somin-sai festival — which sees hundreds of scantily-clad men wrestle for a talisman in freezing temperatures — was held for the final time last weekend, officials announced.

Japan’s infamous “Naked Man Festival” is coming to an end due to a declining youth population. AFP via Getty Images
The millennia-old Somin-sai festival started over 1,000 years ago. kokusekiji.jp

“This decision is due to the aging of individuals involved in the festival and a shortage of successors,” Daigo Fujinami, Chief Priest of the Kokusekiji Temple where the celebration was held, wrote on the shrine’s website.

“While efforts were made to continue the festival to the best of our abilities, in order to prevent last-minute cancellations or disruptions in the future, the decision to cancel the festival itself has been made.”

Somin-sai’s tragic end comes despite officials’ desperate attempts to keep it alive, including allowing women to take part in the ancient celebration.

The final Somin-sai saw several dozen women join the hundreds of men to drive away evil spirits over the coming year — though the women were ordered to be fully clothed alongside their white loin-clothed male counterparts.

The women were also barred from the portion of the festival with the most skin-to-skin contact — during which the nearly nude men wrestle one another to claim a jute bag called “Sominbukuro,” which is said to promise rich grains.

The festival typically takes place on the seventh day of the Lunar New Year when the Chinese mother goddess is believed to have created humanity. 

The festival was held for the final time this past weekend. kokusekiji.jp
Somin-sai’s tragic end comes despite officials’ desperate attempts to keep it alive, including allowing women to take part in the ancient celebration. AFP via Getty Images

Local man Toshiaki Kikuchi, 49, was Somin-sai’s last-ever winner, according to local outlet NHK.

“It is sad that the festival is ending. I participated in hopes that it would be a memorable festival,” he said.

The Somin-sai festival was one of three major “naked man” or Hadaka Matsuri festivals held in the country, CNN reported.

One held at the Saidaiji Kannonin Temple in Okayama, and the second at the Kuronuma Shrine in Fukushima, do not have plans to shut down.

Japan’s population has been on a steady decline for 15 years, with each year seeing a steeper drop. The population of Japanese nationals fell by about 800,000 people, or 0.65%, to 122.4 million in 2022.