Tokyo: Thousands braved the chilly weather on Saturday (February 15) to gather at Japan’s annual ‘Hadaka Matsuri’ or the "Naked Festival" in Okayama prefecture in the southern part of Japan's Honshu island. The loincloth-clad competitors gathered at the Saidaiji Temple for the event to celebrate prosperity and fertility which is annually celebrated on the third Saturday of February. 

They sport minimal amount of clothing; usually a Japanese loincloth called a "fundoshi" and a pair of white socks called "tabi”.

Their aim was to snatch one of two 20cm-long “shingi” wooden sticks thrown by a priest into the crowd.

During the ritual, men spend the initial hours running around the temple grounds and through a fountain of near-freezing water, in order to purify their bodies and souls. They, then enter the main temple complex, reported CNN. 

At 10 pm, the lights go out and the temple's priest throws two lucky sticks, called shingi, along with a bundle of hundred twigs, at the crowd. Tens of thousands of men tussle among themselves to get hold of either the bundles or the two lucky sticks. Whoever succeeds is guaranteed a year of good fortune, according to the legend. The whole event lasts for about 30 minutes, often resulting in bruises and injuries. A similar ritual takes place during the day, in which elementary school boys participate.

Similar naked festivals are held throughout Japan every year, as part of a tradition that is said to stretch back 500 years.