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Thousands run to claim a year's worth of luck

posted 10 Jan 2013, 05:57 by Mpelembe   [ updated 10 Jan 2013, 05:58 ]

An eighteen year old highschool student beats thousands of contestants to win Japan's annual "Lucky Man Run", which is believed to bestow a year's worth of luck on the first person to cross the finishing line at the Nishinomiya Shrine.

NISHINOMIYAJAPAN (JANUARY 10, 2013) (REUTERS) - The thunderous drums of the Nishinomiya shrine in central Japan signalled the start of Japan's annual "Lucky Man Run" at the crack of dawn, or six am exactly (2100GMT) on Thursday (January 10).

This year over 4500 people turned up to participate in the short 230 meter (754 feet) race around the shrine grounds.

But even before the gates opened, it had all to do with luck.

One hundred and eight people -- an auspicious number in Japanese buddhist lore -- were selected in a lottery draw and allowed to start at the advantageous pole position places close to the giant red doors.

But it was highschool student Yuto Doi (pronounced 'yoo-toh doh-ee') who seemed to have it all today as he raced ahead of the pack through the winding track past food stalls and on the ancient stone paths towards the inner sanctum of the shrine.

His arrival at the main altar clinched him the title "Number One Lucky" and bestowed upon him a year's worth of good luck, as a crowd gathered to wish him well..

Nishinomiya Shrine is dedicated to the much loved god Ebisu, who is one of the seven lucky gods of Japanese mythology.

That may not, however, have been altogether fortuitous for 18 year old Doi, who was presented with a year's worth of Ebisu beer. In Japan the legal drinking age is 20.

But that did not dampen his spirits as he vowed to spread his good fortune around.

"I wish my victory brings fortune to people around me so that they all become happy," he told reporters in a media scrum equivalent in size to those that follow major pop stars.

Doi's moment of fame will last only a year, but that may be enough to get his wish granted.

"My biggest wish now is that all my school mates enter colleges they want to go," he said, surrounded by the "Number Two Lucky" and "Number Three Lucky" who also receive a year's worth of luck.

Though, according to temple officials, perhaps not with as much verve as the top runner.

The second place does also get a barrel of rice and third place, whole grilled sea bream - all symbols of the god of luck.