WAKAYAMA -- Men stripped naked from the waist up ran a 4.1-kilometer course around a shrine in this western Japan city on Jan. 11 -- an annual event to pray for good health.
According to a citizen's group for regional development that has been holding the event at Itakiso Shrine since 2012, the half-naked run is thought to have its origins in a ritual for new adults from before World War II, though the exact year it began is unknown.
Twenty-six people, from elementary school students to those in their 60s, including some fully-clothed women, came from Wakayama and other prefectures to join the run. They departed from the shrine at 11:40 a.m. with sacred straw festoons on their waists. They then tied the garlands on a cedar tree at the shrine after completing the course.
Rika Imou, 50, from the Nara Prefecture city of Gojo, ran with three family members. "I want to spend time with my family happily and in good health," she said. Rika's first daughter Misaki, 13, added, "I want to get good results in athletics competitions."
(Japanese original by Satoshi Yamaguchi, Wakayama Bureau)