Some 5,000 men burst through the gates of Nishinomiya Shrine in Hyogo Prefecture at 6 a.m. on Tuesday morning and raced 230 meters toward the shrine’s main hall with the frontrunners attempting to capture the title of “fuku-otoko” (Lucky Man).
The annual ceremony, which has been held since the Edo period, is associated with Ebisu, a god of prosperous business. The first three participants to reach the main gates are considered Japan’s luckiest men for the year.
The lucky runner who took first place was 21-year-old university student Takashi Suzuki of Senshu University in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture. Suzuki moved to Kawasaki after the March 11, 2011 tsunami devastated his hometown of Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture. He and two Hyogo men, who placed second and third, were presented with a barrel of sake.