月曜日, 2月 28, 2011

Naked Woman, Naked Man, Where Did You Get That Nice Suntan?

Okay, first I want to say thank you to everyone who visits my blog. I have really been trying to step up the appearance and interface and even made some small design changes since yesterday, so I hope there are a few people out there enjoying my efforts.
It's like "Thanks", with a Jamaican accent.

And I want to tell you that I've started using this RSS business I always see on other people's blogs and websites, and I really like it. Specifically, I am using "Google Reader" because I figure they already have so much of my private info, I might as well just let them know what I read online too. Anywho, it is a really cool and easy way to keep up with news, and people's updates to their statuses and blogs. Like Twitter for people who can decide for themselves whether they'd like to commit to more than 140 characters worth of input. It is also a nice way to bypass filters on your work computer if they block "blog sites" like mine does. >=D
You can now, also subscribe to my blog on the right hand side of the page. Or if you have your own "blogger/blogspot" than you can just "follow" me. The numbers aren't important, but keeping people (who want to be) informed on my life is very important.

One selfish request I have is that you vote on my poll honestly (if you already did ↑TANKS again!) with whatever knowledge you have of my ability and personality. You guys are my lifeline, and I am "polling the audience" before my "Final Ansa'".
Cerebral Side Rant OVER.
Also, please let me know what you think of my writing, or the content, or improvements, or requests for what you'd like to hear more about. I've added a bunch of simple choices you can choose from to the bottom of every post, or you can comment in detail. Because my favorite hobby is finding new challenges and life experiences, maybe you've already tried something you can recommend to me and I will get back to you with a post on my experience once I've picked up your gauntlet. You can do that here, or by email, or on fb, but I would like to know what you like and don't like or just your reaction to reading these entries. It matters to me.

So... anyone recognize the song I stole my entry title from? It's by a little band called "The Specials". And I thought of it because of the words "NAKED MAN".

Yes, after 5 years in Hiroshima, I finally went to the 裸祭り or "Naked Festival". This could also easily qualify as "Crazy Japanese Stuff", although if you're familiar with Shinto beliefs it actually all made plenty of sense. Still, it was that typical half-ceremony/half-competition that you commonly see in Shinto Festivals that purposely creates chaos for the joy of spectators and entertainment of the gods. So I feel "purposely insane" is an accurate description.
So I hopped a Hiroshima AJET bus to Okayama Saturday afternoon, Feb. 19th. and started drinking. The reasons for drinking were two-fold. One, I'm surrounded by other JETs drinking, on a chartered bus, so what better time to drink? And two, I knew by the time we reached the temple in the evening, the majority of the Japanese people there would already be drunk. So four drinks and several hours in, we were quite late getting there, probably because of traffic, and I was feeling drunk and a little bored, so when we pulled into a rest stop I decided to strip down to the cheap fundoshi (loincloth) I had bought last Halloween as a goof with my friend and run a lap around the parking lot. Brace yourselves; it looked like this:
But at least I was recycling!
There was a big tour bus of old Japanese people who had a good laugh and a few even applauded my scantly clad jog in the cold night air. Getting back on the bus our driver said "You're early! We haven't gotten there yet!" and laughed.
Looking back it was the closest thing I've ever done to streaking, but I wasn't really worried because Japanese people are much less sensitive to nudity as communal baths, hot springs, and the festival we headed toward had already made abundantly clear.
Keep in mind, at this point, I wasn't even sure if I'd be able to participate in the festival itself because I needed to have a team of at least 4 people and I was the only one on our bus even remotely interested, so I reasoned this was my insurance that at least I could say I wasn't too shy, even if the festival didn't work out.

Back, dressed, and on the bus to Okayama, the traffic made us later still and i was sobering up, which always makes me feel tired. By the time we got to the shrine, I wasn't really feeling "in the mood" to get naked in the cold. We walked around the grounds and went up to the alter and prayed.

There were TONS of cops there!

No Flash
Every once in awhile groups of "naked" dudes would appear running around in their fundoshi. Why and from where to where were they running? It was seemingly arbitrary.
This group was carrying the winner's of the "naked boy" portion. Calm down, you can see they aren't really naked.

I lost my group in the crowds and while I ate a doner kebab (my favorite Euro-food; for whatever reason you can always find at a Japanese matsuri (festival),

This sign advertises Turkish cuisine as one of the world's "Top 3"

I called some other friends who i knew would be there that evening. Finally getting a hold of one he said, "Come to the changing room, you can hold my shit for me". Okay, I thought, why not? I started asking around and as I got closer and closer to the changing room I began to think, "Why would I sit on the sidelines and hold stuff for someone else doing it?!? No, I want to be a part of this!!"So when I found the place and was looking for him, i ran into more friends and said "Hey, um, can I be on your team?" to which they responded "HELL YEAH!" and it was all good times from there! I bought my fundoshi and tabi (split-toe shoes) for 1000 yen (12USD) and paid another 1000 for the participation fee, and before I knew it an old Japanese man was wrapping me in the longest piece of cloth I'd ever seen, and friends were handing me large bottles of sake!

Haha John, thanks for that.

Not so bad yeah? You can't see it, but my but is hanging out with a thick white cloth covering my crack like a Kurosawa samurai film! The funny thing is, I wasn't the least bit embarrassed, despite my bare ass!

No pictures after that point, sadly. I left my pockets in my clothing and we commenced running laps around the temple like the groups of men we'd seen before. We probably shouted "Washoi, Washoi!" a phrase meant to to liven up our spirits and the atmosphere of the matsuri. We fell into a huge line of fundoshi-clad men, all still shouting. as we approached the temple. Even inside the temple, we were locked in on a path of follow-the-leader and followed them onto a detour into a small and ancient pool of waist deep water which we then sloshed and splashed around in. Keep in mind, this is February and after 9PM, so the water was freezing!
The procession continued to a Buddhist temple on the same grounds of as the Shinto shrine (this is common for Japan where they don't feel the need to choose just one religion), and broke into single file to pray at the alter before reforming and running up into the main shrine's covered (for lack of a better word) porch! It was so strange because less than an hour before I had been to all these same places, fully dressed and snapping photos: look!

Here's the Temple pre-being full of naked men and spectators!
This is the "patio" area's second floor.

But the patio area was now jammed in tight with similarly naked men, and it took only a few minutes of being jammed together to make us dream of that cold pool of water we so foolishly hurried through before! After 40 minutes of feeling like we were at the front of a U2 concert, the waves of people pushing us to and fro, and watching out sweat evaporate and rise visibly to the second floor, they turned off all the lights and under a strobe of photographers flashes, everyone tried frantically to grab the 神木, basically many sticks like what you saw young boy carrying in the photo of "naked men" above. If your group secures one and makes it out of the temple grounds, you win a large sum of cash! But that alone would not entertain anyone, let alone GODS, so being an all-male festival, anyone still within the grounds is allowed to try and take the sticks from you by any means necessary! So this is what it looked like when the sticks were thrown out:
That's me in the red circle!
In the end, I never even SAW a stick, only swarms of people already fighting over them. So once things died down, I changed back into my normal clothing, said good night to the friends I had met there, and walked back to the bus with my Hiroshima crew, stopping to buy a few celebratory drinks for the long bus ride home. I got home at 3 AM with work the next day, so my head crashed hard onto my pillow and I slept blissfully unaware, that as awesome a week I had just experienced, the next week (this last week, as I type this) would be. I really want to tell you about that now, but I will save it til my next post...

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