Oh What a Lucky Man He Is: The New Year Race at Nishinomiya Shrine

It’s not one of the biggest races in Japan, but it Is probably the oldest.

The Lucky Men Race has been held at Nishinomiya Shrine on January 10 since the Edo Period (1603~1868). As the clock strikes 6 AM, the gates of the shrine burst open as thousands of men pour through, hoping to be first to make it to the main hall and be crowned “fuku-otoko” (福男)   the “Luckiest Man”.

Michinara Mizuta (center) Luckiest Man 2016
Michinari Mizuta (center) Luckiest Man 2016
As you can see in the video, it’s a mad dash, about 230 meters, as thousands of men run full throttle through the shinto shrine located in Hyogo, which is a prefecture in the Western part of Japan. The first three people to make it into the arms of shrine personnel at the end of the race are the winners, although the first place winner is the “lucky man”. This year, a 16-year-old high school student named Michinari Mizuta was crowned champion. This was the third attempt for Mizuta, and as they say, threes the charm.

And of course, I’m sure this story reminds you of my favorite Emerson, Lake and Palmer song – Lucky Man.