The Funniest & Muddiest Day of My Life

Let me just go ahead and say there’s no way I’m going to completely do justice to the day I had Monday, but I will give it the ole’ college try, nonetheless.

It all started several weeks ago when my friend Katherine sent me an email asking me if I wanted to attend the Warabi Naked Matsuri.  Honestly, I really didn’t need to click the link she sent ~ I mean, it’s some adventure in Japan and it had the word naked in it ~ how could I say no?!!!

Warabi Naked Matsuri is a Shinto Festival that has taken place in this town for more than 700 years.  It’s very official, with security and registration!


It begins up on a hill at the Shinto shrine with the “hardy men” dressed in loincloths and bright pink head cloths.  They each carry the babies born in the town in the past year, and the Shinto priests give them a blessing and a few stalks are placed in the head cloths of the men.


The men then walk the babies down the hill to a sacred muddy rice paddy and put a pinch of mud on the infants’ faces to protect the babies from harm.


They return up to the shrine and back to the mud paddy a total of three times.


After the babies are returned to their mothers, the Festival really gets started!

The men all ran down the hill, chanting prayers for a good harvest in the coming year.


And this is where I should pause to talk about the temperature.

It was really darn cold, folks.  Not cold-‘cuz-you’re-in-a-loincloth-kinda-cold, but rather cold like you’re standing around in freezing mud, tossing inch-thick sheets of ice out of the way cold.  That, my friends, is the very definition of a “hardy man!”


And then came the mud wrestling!  The men participate in wrestling battles, known as kibasen where teams of three men hold a fourth on their shoulders and they try to knock over the other teams.  And then it pretty much turns into a free for all!



The men then climb out of the rice paddy, run back up to the shrine, warm themselves by the bonfire, drink sake and apparently eat what seemed to be Big Macs.  I kid you not.


And repeat.  Over and over again.

After watching the rice paddy action twice, four of us decided to check out what was happening back up at the shrine at the top of the hill.


For starters, you should understand we were the only non-Japanese at this Festival.  We were greeted warmly and clearly a bit of a novelty as this wasn’t a particularly large festival as they tend to go, and we were a good hour outside of Tokyo.

 So every time the men ran back and forth, we got swipes of mud on our face {which we later learned was for good luck!}.  We found this absolutely hilarious.


And the more we laughed and the more sake the men had, the muddier and funnier it became.  We cheered them on each time they passed, and they started cheering each time they saw us.


At this point, I had mud being rubbed in my hair.  Clearly, I have been blessed with much luck for the coming year!

And the Japanese photographers couldn’t get enough of watching and shooting our interaction.  We joked that this was our “paparazzi moment” as we literally watched hundreds of people taking our pictures, just inches from our faces.  I’m not exaggerating.


It went on like this for an hour or more.  Us laughing so hard we forgot how cold we were, we didn’t care how dirty we were, and we completely forgot that no one had seen a bathroom for hours.

It’s good to be a grown up and still be completely silly for a day.

And I’m pretty sure my new standard for awesome is two festivals in one week!

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10 Responses to The Funniest & Muddiest Day of My Life

  1. Tokyo Jinja says:

    What a great day and experience I will always remember! So happy we shared it!

  2. teresa says:

    The best memories are made when you let your self be silly and have fun, even better with the mix of a foreign language and culture. I Love reading your blog.

  3. shelli says:

    It’s always fun to be a grown-up kid. i do it all the time.

  4. Katherine says:

    Love it and am so happy you joined in the fun!

  5. george says:

    Too funny! Very pleased to finally understand the muddy faces photo! Did anyone check the local newspapers to see if you made front page?

  6. Aunt Pam says:

    Pretty awesome!

  7. karen0221 says:

    A great day never to be forgotten. Thanks for sharing so many great pics and the explanation.

  8. Meg says:

    Great description of such a memorable day! I was so happy to share it!

  9. Cindy says:

    Very fun story…it doesn’t surprise me at all that you were a part of it!!
    You do know how to have a good time!! 🙂 Great pictures!

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