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OKAYAMA (Kyodo) About 9,000 men dressed in nothing but white “fundoshi” (loin cloths) gathered Saturday night in the city of Okayama for an offbeat competition to chase after two sacred sticks thrown by a monk.

The men who manage to snatch the wood and leave with it from Saidaiji Temple in Higashi Ward are recognized as the “lucky men” of the year.

The Saidaiji Eyo competition, also known as the “Naked Festival,” is widely recognized as one of the “three oddest festivals” in the nation. It dates back to the Muromachi Period (1388-1573), with this year’s rendition being the 502nd.

According to legend, the festival started after monks noticed that too many people were chasing after its amulet bills and decided to just throw some into the crowds.

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