Observing any matsuri crowd it’s very easy to figure out which foreigners are freshly arrived in Japan Americans. Those are the ones who look embarrassed and cover their children’s eyes when faced with a group of fundoshi-clad men in a mikoshi procession.
Yeah, fundoshi… The underwear that puts the “fun” back into a loincloth.
It’s cold and, frankly, I’m tired of this winter. And to remind myself that summer will, eventually, come again sometime this year and I won’t have to wear two pairs of socks and a fleece to bed, I looked at some photos taken in warmer months.
And the fact that a group of my students asked me to consider being on a mikoshi team with them this coming summer also had something to do with it. Fortunately, as a woman, I won’t have to don fundoshi (which considering the size of my ass, is definitely a blessing). And unfortunately, I will have to pass on the mikoshi procession, as I will be in the UK attending a Discworld convention during that time. Yes, I’m a geek and proud of it. And it will be my first time in the UK, too! (Because transfers between Heathrow and Gatwick don't count.)
But where were we? Ah yes, fundoshi (褌)…
My husband doesn’t own any, and though my FIL does, I’ve been (mercifully) spared the sight of him wearing it.
Fundoshi is a strip of cloth tied like a loincloth. It’s so traditionally Japanese that it’s even mentioned in the ancient myth collection – Nihon Shoki (or if you prefer – the second oldest book of classical Japanese history – “The Chronicles of Japan”, whatever… still a bunch of myths to me).
Anyway, how complicated can a basic loincloth get? What do you think? Apparently – very. From what the men in the family told me, there are more than just a couple of variations on fundoshi. And since I’m a clueless female, despite some very graphic explanations, it’s still just a piece of fabric securing a guy’s dingdongs to me.
But because I know you’re just dying to learn more, here’s a (tasteful) lesson in how to wear fundoshi.