Hadaka Matsuri, Nara, Japan

February 15
According to Shinto legend, the Hadaka Matsuri dates back to the Nara period around 767 AD when misfortune and disease plagued the region. Collective belief held that nakedness could absorb bad luck and evil. A man from each village was forced to serve as the Shin-Otoko, or Godly Man. He then had to shave off all his body hair before walking into a gauntlet of eager villagers, who believed that touching him would cast away all their troubles. Shouldering the ills of thousands of people wasn’t an easy task for one man. To make matters worse, at day’s end, the Shin-Otoko was banished, along with the entire population’s misery.
More than a thousand years have passed since the first Naked Festival. Today, the age-old tradition is still celebrated across the country, although a reversal of fortune has occurred over time. The role of the now-willing Shin-Otoko is considered a great honor instead of a form of punishment. As the blessed one, the Godly Man spreads his prosperity into the crowd.

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