• Kyodo

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About 9,000 men dressed only in white “fundoshi” loincloths scrambled to get their hands on two pieces of sacred wood at a Buddhist temple in Okayama on Sunday, marking the 500th anniversary of “one of Japan’s three oddest festivals.”

The ceremony at Saidaiji Temple is called Saidaiji Eyo, and the two winners who manage to grab the pieces of wood and get out of the temple’s compound are declared by the monks as “the man of fortune of the year.”

The almost-naked men entered the compound at around 10 p.m. Saturday after undergoing a purification rite by pouring cold water over themselves.

At midnight, the monks turned off the lights and dropped the 20-cm-long pieces of wood into the writhing throng.

The participants immediately started struggling to get ahold of them, with steam coming off their bodies in the cold night air.

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