Men in loincloths try to snatch a lucky wooden stick during the Saidaiji-eyo festival at the Kinryozan Saidaiji temple in Okayama on Feb. 16. (The Asahi Shimbun)

OKAYAMA--A whirlpool of near-naked men massed on a dark temple compound here on Feb. 16 as they sought to become the luckiest man of the year.

About 10,000 men in white loincloths, whose bodies were emitting steam in the cold night air after being purified in frigid water, scrambled for wooden sticks believed to bring luck at the Kinryozan Saidaiji temple.

After all the lights were turned off around 10 p.m., the chief priest tossed a pair of 20-centimeter-long “shingi” sacred sticks from a window 4 meters above ground into the massive throng.

Those who left the temple grounds holding the shingi are considered “lucky men” of this year.

The Saidaiji-eyo festival, said to date to the Muromachi Period (1338-1573), marked its 510th time this year.