Mar. 23, 2013
No, this isn’t a scene from a Heironymous Bosch painting. It is, in fact, the somewhat less infernal Hadaka Matsuri, or Naked Man Festival. Yes, that’s right, a festival for hoards of Japanese men to brave freezing temperatures in barely more than their birthday suits.
The Naked Man Festival has a long tradition in Japan, with a deep well of symbolism that goes beyond the surface of its wrinkled hindquarters. And if one were to flip through a Japanese history book, references to nudity would come hard and fast - from images of feudal peasants working fields unclothed, to public baths peppered with naked bodies. Given these aspects of Japanese history and culture, it would be easy to assume that nudity is commonplace in Japan, and not necessarily linked to sexuality as it is in the West.
In “Pink Samurai,” Nicholas Bornoff writes: “At the two extremes of female and male in popular culture, one finds the geisha and the sumo wrestler: the dainty living doll standing for femininity and the mountainous icon of macho flesh with the little porcine eyes.”