The Konomiya Hadaka (Naked) Festival takes place this year on Friday February 22.
On the second day of the lunar new year a post marked with the words "naoi shinji" is set up outside Konomiya Shrine, this will happen this year on February 11. This rather solemn and dry event marks the beginning of the festival rites of the hadaka matsuri which will last until March 3 this year.
An hour later at 10am a group of applicants will arrive at the shrine in the hope of being selected as this year's shin-otoko or ("god-man"). To be chosen as shin-otoko is considered a great honor in the eyes of the community, though a weird one in many people's eyes, in view of the bruising and traumatic events that are to follow.
Hadaka Matsuri, like many festivals in Japan, including the Gion Festival in Kyoto, goes back to a ritual to stop an outbreak of plague, this was way back in 767.
The Hadaka Festival has a set of defined stages and seems to be a lot of fun, though cold, for the participants both young and old.
A huge 4-ton rice-cake (mochi) is prepared at the shrine and is presented to the shin-otoko on the eve of the main festival parade.
For three days before the start of the festival the shin-otoko is kept in solitary in a small room in Konomiya Shrine. He is fed only rice-gruel and water and has all his body hair shaved off as part of the purification ritual.
The festival begins in mid-afternoon on the 13th day of the lunar new year when thousands of men dressed only in loincloths carry a bamboo pole covered with pieces of paper carrying the excuses of people who could not make it to the festival that year. The streets are lined with stalls selling festival food, beer, sake and souvenirs.
When the shin-otoko appears from the shrine the assembled men - many of them aged 23 or 42 (ages considered unlucky or yakudoshi) - converge on the shin-otoko in an effort to touch him and thus pass on their bad luck and thus rid themselves of evil.
The shin-otoko's guards, who attempt to stop him getting killed in the crush, throw cold water on the crowds to help cool things down. The event can be dangerous and people have suffered injuries in the past. There were even riots in the 16th century.
At 3am the next morning the shin-otoko carrying a "mud cake" on his back - symbolizing bad luck and calamity - is chased away from the shrine and the mud cake is buried by the shrine priests. This part of the festival is known as yonaoi shinji.
Later that morning the large rice cake presented earlier is cut up and distributed to worshipers. Eating the rice cake is believed to prevent illness and misfortune.
Access - Getting to Konomiya: Take a Meitetsu Line train from Nagoya Station bound for Gifu to Konomiya Station (north exit and then a short 3-minute walk) or a JR Tokaido Line train from Nagoya Station to Inazawa Station and then a 15-minute walk to Konomiya shrine.
1-1-1 Konomiya, Inazawa city
Tel: 0587 23 2121
Konomiya is located just outside Nagoya in central Japan.