Hadaka Oshiai Matsuri
Naked Push-and-Shove Festival
The Naked Push-and-shove Festival is held throughout Japan. It is most commonly held on March 3. In Niigata prefecture however this event is held as part of the New Year's celebrations, at night, in the snowy mountain temples. Each year around January 23 in Mikawa village (三川村),
and earlier on January 15th
in Muika (六日町),
participants gather in the evening at the Ishido Enmeiji Temple (石戸
延命寺). Men wearing loin cloths, and sometimes even women in lightweight yukata and shorts, parade "naked" from the main hall of the temple to the priest's living quarters, while pushing and shoving each other. When they get there they use torches to light a large bonfire to pray for good health and good luck in the new year. The fires, pushing, shoving, and shouting (and nakedness?) are all to scare the evil spirits away (in classic Shinto style) after a day of ritual purification.
This is all part of the New Year craziness the Japanese partake in.
While in central Honshu during January, it's only a 25 minute walk from Higashi Gejo Station, call first to confirm the date.
more (including pictures):
or search for 石戸
See also: Hadaka Matsuri, The Naked Festival!
Here's why the kanji are unicode.