The price of prosperity.
Naked, Violent, Frozen, Blessed and Happy!
Shivering in their loincloth, thousands of men took part this weekend in Japan at the perilous Hadaka matsuri, festival of the naked man, to try to seize wooden lucky charms thrown into the crowd by Buddhist monks.
The test, which takes place every February in Okayama (west), begins on a Saturday, at dusk, with an icy bath. This year, some 10,000 courageous souls have plunged into a pool of cold water to cleanse their bodies and prepare for a tough battle.
"There is the idea of facing the sacred heart bare, as we are," said Kazuhiko Nishigami, auto mechanic.
Faithful crowd inside Saidaiji temple, fists and elbows to find the best place. An impressive human melee of torsos and bare legs, arms raised to the sky to catch the precious "shingi" wooden sticks 4 cm in diameter and 20 cm long.
The wait can last for an hour, putting a suffocating crowd to death, wincing in pain, seeming to implore forgiveness.
Overhanging, the monks pour on them holy water, then the black is done and the sticks rain, seen at the only glow of the flashes of cameras and cameras.
Shintoist ritual mysterious ancestral!
Those who manage to seize a talisman must then fight fiercely so that it does not fall into the hands of rivals eager for its protective powers and sometimes intoxicated by alcohol.
"The stick fell in the middle of our group, I quickly hid it in my" mawashi (loincloth) "and I left as if nothing had happened," said Kosuke Yasuhara, 38, a firefighter by profession. Once left the sacred enclosure, the trophy is out of danger.
But not everyone is so lucky.
This mysterious ritual, which has been going on for 500 years and is also available as a "children" version, has killed people in the past, even if the organizers want to be reassuring."We want to remember that this is a religious festival, so we have become much stricter about alcohol and violent behavior," said one of the monks, Tsuboi Zenko. It is also "forbidden to wear soles". As a precaution, however, each participant must write his blood type on a document, then placed in the loincloth in case of serious injury.
But the reward is up. "Those who seize the amulet are promised prosperity," says the monk. Mr. Yasuhara, soon a father, leaves with a big smile. "This amulet is a gift from the gods, which will bring us in April a baby in full health", he assures.