Posted: February 8

The Naked Festival- A Japanese Tradition in Kyotango

Every February the fishing town of Taiza in Kyotango holds a very special Japanese tradition, locally known as the naked festival. Or by its proper name Hyakudo Uchi, which roughly translates as “striking one hundred times”.

While not quite naked this festival sees local young men running around the town praying for good health and safety for everyone, while wearing little more than a loincloth. This year I and one other member from the Kyotango Tourism Association joined the event.

An Ancient Tradition

This tradition started more than a hundred years ago in the Edo period. The young men set out at the break of dawn and run either barefoot, or wearing white tabi socks or straw sandals. They wear an ornamental apron called a kesho mawashi, emblazoned with famous place names, or expressions to inspire strength and endurance in the runners.

Running Through Town

Their first stop is at the coast where they collect 6 stones each. They then visit 3 Shinto shrines in Taiza and deposit 2 stones at each before ringing the bell and making their prayer for health and safety.

The 3 shrines are Mihashira Shrine, Inari Shrine, and Hayao Shrine. At each shrine, a drink of sake is poured on a lantern for the gods enshrined there to enjoy.

The total distance was only about 2 km and took about 30 minutes at our pace.

Running Conditions

Running around outside with very little clothes at the break of dawn in February is a bad idea in general, but this year we were lucky to have very good weather. Checking the temperature beforehand it was about 8°C with little wind so we quickly warmed up once we started running.

Afterward, all the runners were treated to a visit to the hot spring in Kaiunkan Ryokan in Taiza. A nice relaxing soak after a chilly morning run was just the thing to start the day.

Local Japanese Traditions

Japanese traditions like this are dying out in small towns like Kyotango. Some of the photos from decades ago had much larger groups of runners and it would be a real shame if there weren’t enough people to continue this tradition in future years.

I would also like to express my personal thanks to the organizers for allowing my colleague and me to take part.

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