Some 5,000 men burst through the gates of Nishinomiya Shrine in Hyogo Prefecture at 6 a.m. on Friday 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 New Year 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 Yusuke Kuroki, a 33-year-old high school teacher from Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, Fuji TV reported. It was the 13th time he had participated in the race. He said he hopes his win will bring good luck to his students.
Among the prizes Kuroki received were a barrel of sake and rice.© Japan Today