Doya Doya is a hard festival to describe accurately.
Held on the 14th of January, it celebrates the culmination of a 14 day period of worship after the New Year for this particular branch of Buddhism. The temple itself, Shitennoji, 四天王寺、in Osaka, is the oldest Buddhist administrative site in Japan.
Those are the background facts of Doya Doya. Then, there is the high-tempo frenzy of watching hundreds of mostly naked high-school aged boys racing around in early January while buckets of water is dumped on them.
On the surface, it sounds bad, like some horrible initiation rite based torture session – but – both the smiles on and the energy in the boys belies this. The high schools participating have a very long history with the temple, so there is plenty of prior warning for future students. There were even a few blonde heads in the mix.
Exit 4 of Shitennojimaeyuhigaoka on the Osaka City Subway Tanimachi Line (certainly the longest station name on that line), will put visitors within a short 5 minute walk of Shitennoji Temple. The temple itself is vast, and well worth visiting outside of Doya Doya. Check here for opening times and fees for special building entry.
Starting at 2pm in the afternoon, there was a large crowd surrounding the main action even on a Tuesday – which had started forming at 11am so head in early!
We were very lucky. Our partnership with Kansai Scene meant we could apply to stand on main stage with the other professional photographers… to the slight bemusement of the other professional photographers. Our first press-pass!! Hopefully not the last!
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