5,000 run in ‘lucky men’ shrine race held for 1st time in 3 years

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ryota Uemoto, far left, leads the pack in the “lucky man” race just after the gate is opened early Tuesday morning at Nishinomiya Shrine in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture.

KOBE — A centuries-old race to select three “lucky men” took place at Nishinomiya Shrine in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, on Tuesday as part of festivities for Hon-Ebisu, or the day to pray for prosperous business.

Nishinomiya Shrine is the head shrine for all Ebisu shrines in the country, which are dedicated to Ebisu, the patron deity of tradesmen and fishermen.

The annual race was held for the first time in three years following a pandemic-driven hiatus. About 5,000 people ran along the roughly 230-meter approach to the shrine’s main building of worship.

The race dates back to the Edo period (1603-1867), and the first three finishers become fukuotoko, or the lucky men of the year. The top fukuotoko for this year was Ryota Uemoto, 22, from Kobe, who is a senior at the Osaka University of Commerce. In the summer of 2018, he participated in the National High School Baseball Championship at Koshien Stadium as a member of the baseball team for Akashi Commercial High School in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture. He said he will continue to play baseball with a team after he graduates.

“I’m super happy because I never thought I’d be the first-place lucky man,” Uemoto said. “I hope I will be a lucky man who can bring happiness to everyone by playing great baseball.”