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September 2000

Celebrating the New Moon

Lunar New Year observances at Saidaiji Temple in Okayama, Japan, traditionally include this feat of human performance. For a ceremony known as hadaka matsuri, a roomful of men grapple in total darkness to find camphor-scented batons tossed into the fray by the temple priest. “It is obvious,” wrote photographer Horace Bristol, Jr., whose camera’s flashbulb provided the room’s only illumination, “that the participants in the ceremony must all be young, athletic, and in the peak of condition, for the melee is exceedingly fierce.” This photograph was taken shortly after World War II. It appeared in the September 1988 issue of the magazine.
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To send this image as a postcard click here. Photograph by Horace Bristol