February 15, 2008

'naked festival' goes ahead despite cries of 'sexual harassment'

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The annual hadaka matsuri of Iwate created alot of buzz lately as the promotional poster was rejected by Japan Railway management.

OSHU, Iwate -- A traditional festival in which bare-chested men scramble for sacks as they wish for good health was held at Kokusekiji Shrine here between Wednesday and Thursday, amid controversy over whether festival activities constituted public indecency.

The Somin Festival gained attention after East Japan Railway Co. banned its posters on the grounds that displaying chest hair constituted sexual harassment. A total of 172 reporters crowded into the temple, but due to a snowstorm on Wednesday the number of onlookers was limited.

Traditionally, a person playing a central role in the festival appears completely naked. This year, however, Iwate Prefectural Police contacted the temple saying that appearing completely naked was a form of indecent exposure. The temple responded by asking for camera flashes and lights to be turned off when the figure appeared naked, and no trouble was reported.