Breaking Barriers: Women Join Japan’s Historic Nude Festival for the First Time in 1250 Years


Japan’s Hadaka Matsuri, also known as the Naked Festival, held at the Konomiya Shrine in central Japan, has been a tradition for over 1,250 years. For the first time in its long history, women have been allowed to participate in this ancient rite. This significant change marks a new chapter in the festival’s legacy, breaking gender boundaries and paving the way for a more inclusive celebration.

The decision to include women in the festival was met with mixed reactions from the community. While some supported the idea, others expressed concerns about breaking tradition and the sanctity of the men’s gathering. Despite the skepticism, the women who took part in the event felt a sense of pride and responsibility in upholding the customs and rituals of the festival.

Unlike the nearly-naked men who participate in the festival wearing only loincloths, the women chose to wear long purple robes known as “happi coats” and white shorts. With bamboo offerings in hand, they joined the procession to the shrine, following the men who were chanting and clamoring to touch the Shin Otoko, the shrine’s male god. While they did not engage in the same activities as the men, their presence added a new dynamic to the ritual.

As the women stood in two parallel lines holding bamboo sticks with red and white ribbons, they prepared to make their mark on this historic occasion. With the support of the crowd cheering them on, they braved the cold water dousing at the shrine’s courtyard and completed their contribution to the festivities. The women bowed, clapped, and expressed their gratitude, feeling a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.

For many of the women who participated, this experience was a transformative one. They felt a deep connection to the tradition and the community, and were proud to be a part of such a momentous occasion. As they exited the shrine, they were greeted by tourists and media outlets eager to capture their stories and image. Despite the challenges and concerns surrounding their participation, the women felt empowered and inspired by the support and encouragement they received.

Reflecting on the day’s events, Atsuko Tamakoshi, a key figure in the festival’s history, expressed her gratitude and happiness for being able to participate. As someone who had always been a spectator to the festival, she felt a sense of fulfillment in joining the ranks of the participants. The women who took part in the event shared a sense of camaraderie and unity, transcending gender boundaries and coming together in a shared purpose.

The inclusion of women in the Hadaka Matsuri marks a significant milestone in the festival’s history, signaling a new era of inclusivity and diversity. As Japan grapples with demographic challenges and changing social norms, the participation of women in such traditions offers a hopeful glimpse into a more equitable and progressive society. The women who took part in the festival left a lasting impact on the community, inspiring others to embrace traditions while also challenging outdated norms. This historic event will be remembered as a turning point in the long history of the Hadaka Matsuri, setting the stage for a more inclusive and diverse future.

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