Japan is home to many local festivalsbut some of the best known are the ones in which men run and jump around nearly naked — not for dirty reasons, but for ancient religious ones. The hadaka matsuri or "naked festival" dates back centuries in Japan. Men perform in traditional fundoshi loincloth to purify themselves before gods, to bring luck and prosperity or to welcome new seasons. To see one for myself, I headed in early July to Shimadachi, a village high up in the Japanese Alps — where elementary schoolboys keep up the tradition of marching around town in only loincloth. While perhaps strange if you've got a Western sensibility, the practice is rather routine and vaunted here.
Japan can call itself an innovator in the reality TV and game show world. Shows like Takeshi's Castle and Za Gaman garnered more viewers abroad than they did domestically, because of their complete novelty to foreign viewers. Physical challenge shows are a Japanese invention, and every American attempt at the genre from Nickelodeon's Double Dare to American Ninja Warrior has had a clear Japanese influence. The success of these shows and others has, however, given Japan a reputation for televised cruelty. In an episode of The SimpsonsHomer and the family go on a Japanese game show to win plane tickets back to America, only to have to undergo torture on camera then retrieve the tickets from a volcano.
October 21, Rather than wondering if your feet are positioned at just the right angle, with your toes pointed in just so, other details suddenly begin to matter more. What madness overtook us? And how will our husbands ever be able to explain this at the office? We are the kind of women who are guilty of wanting to make a difference, and, like many others, unsure of exactly how to do it.
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