My onsen initiation was a little awkward. Touring Honsu with a ski group, I was slowly getting to know my new companions when it came time to hit the local onsen. Belatedly, it dawned on me that I would soon be naked with men I had only ever seen in their ski gear. Additionally, there would be other naked men:
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Near-freezing water purifies the body and soul On the third Saturday night in February, the annual Hadaka Matsuri is held at the Saidaiji Kannon-in temple in Okayama Prefecture. This year's festival will be held on February 21st, Originating in , this historic festival is also one of Japan's largest Naked Man festivals. In fact, naked festivals are said to have originated from the Saidaiji temple. Each year, over 9, participants and several thousand more spectators crowd the temple grounds for the festival which starts at 8: The participants strip and change into loincloths, then spend the next hour or two running around the temple grounds and through a fountain of near-freezing water, which is said to purify the body and soul.
This literal translation hits the nail on the head. Among the twenty—thousand male participants, I was one of only few foreigners. We were welcomed and almost celebrated by the jovial natives. Not taking away from the atmosphere was the endless pouring of sake and beer.