Just kidding. Kind of?
If you consider large numbers of exposed male bottoms explicit, then that warning was for you. And this festival is probably not.
Hetomato (へトマト) is a festival that takes place in Goto on the third Saturday of every January and has nothing to do with tomatoes. Specifically, it takes place in the small seaside town of Sakiyama- 崎山. Last year, I did not attend as I was in Unzen, but I made sure to go this year and was not disappointed. I enjoyed the particularly balmy January Sunday, although not as much as the participants did I'm sure. Ass you can see (that started as a typo but I kept it), the male participants are quite exposed in their 'fundoshi' or loin cloth. It was very lucky timing as well considering every day since the festival has been around 2 degrees with snow flurries.
First, some history. This festival has been going on for generations in Sakiyama and the origin is traced back to the town's roots as both a fishing and a farming village. Supposedly, the festival used to be a sort of competition between the fishers and the farmers to see who would have a more prosperous season. The festival takes place between two local temples-- one close to the sea and once close to the mountains. The same local family has been presiding over the festival for seven generations and I heard that the metaphorical Hetomato torch (there could be a real torch I don't know) will be passed from father to son again this year.
The festival begins with a sumo tournament in front of the first shrine. However, it is not professional sumo wrestlers but local townspeople who participate. Beginning with a kindergarten sumo match (!!) and ending with local men who happen to be quite hammered duking it out in the ring. Everyone then walks over to a different site where there is a tug of war and 'large ball throwing' event. That's the only thing I can think to call it. There is a large straw ball that the two teams (historically the farmers and the fishermen) fight over and try to throw to their team. If they get the large straw ball, they will be rewarded with a prosperous harvest that year. It mostly looked like a bunch of drunk men in loin cloths fighting over a ball. My friend and Hetomato veteran only said 'Dont. Get hit. By the ball.' Apparently it has a tendency to fly into the crowd and probably weighs at least 20 kilos.
As you can see, everyone is smeared with this black charcoal paint mixture. Apparently this started long ago as someone playing a trick and it just sort of stuck. Although, as someone was putting it on my face he said that it protected against sickness for the year and I'm into that. Some men were running around with buckets of this goop trying to get as many spectators as they could and some took it very seriously (as you can see by the completely blackened faces of my friends). There was a little girl standing next to us who was NOT having any of it and throwing a complete tantrum because someone put paint on her face. Her family, of course, thought it was hilarious and there were several people taking videos and pictures of her. She will be seeing that video played for the rest of her life.
Then the main event. A large straw sandal called an 'Oozori' is hoisted into the air by the men and carried aloft through the town. (This is the top picture of the post). As they walk down the street, they look for young women in the crowd to put into the sandal and throw up and down a few times. As young foreign ladies, it's safe to say my friends and I were some of the first chosen. This is supposed to bring the ladies luck in marriage and fertility. I'm anticipating any day now for the marriage proposals to start flooding in because I have been tossed in a sandal.
My friend Dan was on a television show on NHK last year explaining more about the festival (and where I pilfered all my information from). You can watch it here if you're interested! The segment is the last ten-ish minutes.