‘Naked man festival’ is no more

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Japan’s millennia-old ‘naked man festival’ ending because of population decline.

Tokyo CNN  — 

In near-freezing winter temperatures and wearing nothing but white loincloths, throngs of men wrestle one another in a bid to a claim a talisman during Japan’s Somin-sai festival – more famously known as the “naked man festival.”

But the event, said to have run for over 1,000 years at the secluded Kokusekiji Temple, was held for the last time on Saturday, becoming the latest Japanese tradition to fall victim to the country’s aging population crisis.

In an online post, organizers of the festival conceded they had been unable to find enough willing young participants to alleviate the pressures placed on aging locals who are unable to keep up with the demands of the ritual.

“This decision is due to the aging of individuals involved in the festival and a shortage of successors,” Daigo Fujinami, Chief Priest of the Kokusekiji Temple, wrote on the shrine’s website.

Japan’s population has been in steady decline since its economic boom of the 1980s, with a fertility rate of 1.3 – far below the rate of 2.1 required to maintain a stable population.

Deaths have also outpaced births in Japan for more than a decade, posing a growing problem for leaders of the world’s fourth-largest economy. They now face a ballooning elderly population and shrinking workforce, in a challenge to fund pensions and health care as demand from the aging population surges.

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