Fundoshi Iwai (Loincloth Rituals) (褌祝)

Fundoshi Iwai (aka Heko Iwai) is a coming-of-age ritual for men, that takes place in some regions of Japan. Origins of the ritual come from a practice where having reached puberty, adolescent males in their early teens wore a loincloth for the first time and were recognized as adults.

Fundoshi Iwai is mainly held among the western Japan, but it is also seen in some areas in eastern Japan such as Nagano, Chiba, and Ibaraki Prefectures. When adolescents become men, the event is celebrated. Since the days of yore in Japan, the ritual has been treated as a personal rite and something equivalent to the coming of age ceremony for the common man on the street. As the 'Fundoshi' (loincloth) is designed to cover the genital region, the Fundoshi's use is a symbol that celebrates the wearers capacity to reproduce. Close relatives were invited to the ceremony and sometimes a banquet was also arranged.

The Fundoshi was provided by an aunt on the mother's side; however if lacking, in principle it could also be given by a paternal aunt.
In cases when there was also no paternal aunt, it was presented by blood relatives such as mother or sisters and called an 'Oba (aunty) Kure (received) Fundoshi (loincloth).'

The age of adulthood differed amongst regions in Japan; however, it was usually considered to be adolescents between the ages of 13 and 15. It is said that celebrations were held when adolescents reached the age of puberty where a bolt of cloth, rice or sake (rice wine) was presented to a girls household whereupon, the cloth was used to make loincloths and a naked adolescent was instructed how to tie traditional undergarments and toasts were exchanged. After the ceremonies had concluded an adolescent was afterwards permitted to wear a loincloth, treated as an adult and and permitted to marry from the community. There was a reason why the loincloth was treated as an adults piece of underwear and adolescents who had not reached adulthood were not permitted to wear the same.

In some regions the loincloth celebrations were used to hand down gender specific etiquette and it said were at times a form of sex education. When an adolescent boy reached maturity in a matriarchal family dominated by a mother figure, reproductive potential was something to be celebrated and, ceremonies to celebrate good fortune and success involved the selection of womenfolk from the maternal side of the family as partners for the adolescents initial acts of coitus. Prior to this, mothers were directly involved as partners in this arrangement however, after incest became more of a taboo, there was a shift to women who were not blood relatives.

In more recent times, in a departure from traditional loincloths (Rokushaku Fundoshi), along with the changing times there were some regions who held simplified loincloth (Etchu Fundoshi) events. However, since the 1920's incest has increasingly been taboo and with WWII Westernization spread and loincloths largely died out as nuclear families gained ground and, as such, holding loincloth ceremonies largely died out in most regions whereby the sentiment is conveyed in form alone by serving rice with red beans it appears.

[Original Japanese]