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Explore Japan

The Somin Naked Festival

Aired: March 9, 2017


The Somin Naked Festival has been passed down for more than one thousand years at a mountain temple, deep in snowy Northern Japan.
This physically demanding, purification rite is held annually in the coldest month of the year—February. Hundreds of men gather at the rustic Kokuseki-ji temple on New Year’s Eve according to the lunar calendar.

Wearing only fundoshi loincloths, they embark on a nightlong test of endurance in a bid to ward off evil and invite in fortune. The climax comes at dawn when there is a frenzied struggle to claim a sacred bag called the somin-bukuro, which brings good luck.

On this program, Canadian TV personality Kyle Card makes his way to Oshu, in southern Iwate, to join in this enigmatic festival. First, he must purify himself in advance of the ritual. He adheres to a strict Zen shojin diet. Later, he sits Zazen at a training temple to practice asceticism and focus his mind for the harsh festival.

Kyle experiences the pain, the thrill, and the glory. He gains firsthand insights into the significance of the Naked Festival—an experience beyond his wildest dreams.


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