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Fuku Otoko 2023 – A Race to Be the Lucky Man at Nishinomiya Shrine: Video Introduction

This video, titled "A Return After 3 Years! Nishinomiya Shrine's 'Fuku Otoko' Event - This Year's 'Lucky Man' Is a 22-Year-Old University Student From Kobe!" (3年ぶり開催!西宮神社「福男選び」 一番福は神戸の22歳大学生), was uploaded by "Kobe Shimbun (kobedigital)" (神戸新聞社(kobedigital)).
Every year, there's a unique ritual held at Nishinomiya Shrine on Toka Ebisu, a festival on January 10 dedicated to Ebisu, the god of fortune. It's called Fuku Otoko.

Since 2019, there has been only one Fuku Otoko event held at Nishinomiya Shrine. But this year, the ritual has finally returned! Before the coronavirus pandemic, the event was massive, with nearly 1,500 participants, but it was cancelled for two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, making it the first time in three years that the event has been held. Check out the video below to see the 2023 Fuku Otoko event!

The Lucky Man of 2023!

Of the first 1,200 people to arrive, approximately 108 were in the forward group. Just prior to the opening of the gates, a curtain was hung with the words "Shuku Fukatsu" (祝復活, Celebration Revival) in celebration of the first time the event had been held in three years.

At 6:00 a.m. on January 10, 2023, the Main Gate opened to the sound of taiko drums, followed by participants rushing into the precincts of the temple and sprinting for the finish line.
[Video] 0:02 - The Celebration Revival Curtain

The first man to pass through the gate arrives at the main shrine, dodging all the obstacles in his path! He was the lucky man of 2023.
[Video] 0:45 - The Moment the Lucky Man of 2023 is Decided

The lucky man for 2023 is a 22-year-old baseball player from Kobe, Hyogo, who is a member of the regulation baseball team at Osaka University of Commerce and holds a record of 5.9 seconds in the 50-meter dash.
In the interview, he says, "I am standing here because of my luck, so I want to make this a year in which I can share this luck with everyone.
[Video] 0:50 - The 3 Lucky Winners

The second blessing was given to a 25-year-old public servant from Nishinomiya, Hyogo, and the third to a first-year college student from Kishiwada, Osaka.

In the 2020 Nishinomiya Shrine Fuku Otoko event, a male PE teacher in his 30s, who has participated 13 consecutive times, was awarded #1 Fuku Otoko for the first time in 2023. Incidentally, the last lucky man of Japan's Heisei period (1989-2019) was a male firefighter in his 20s.

Fuku Otoko – When & Where to See the Event

Image of Nishinomiya Shrine, Hyogo
Photo:Nishinomiya Shrine, Hyogo

The Gate Opening ritual for selecting the "lucky men" is held at Nishinomiya Shrine in Nishinomiya, Hyogo in Japan's Kansai region. Although the 2021 and 2022 rituals were canceled due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, the 2023 ritual was held for the first time in three years and was very popular.

Nishinomiya Shrine's annual Fuku Otoko ritual is held on January 10 during "Toka Ebisu," a major festival dedicated to the deity Ebisu, with the large red gate closing at midnight on January 9 and opening at 6:00 a.m. on January 10. A large number of participants dash through the precincts of the shrine to be the first to arrive at the shrine to pray for good fortune.

For the first time in three years, Nishinomiya Shrine will hold a lottery to select the participants of the event, with the number of participants being limited to 1,200, down from the usual 1,500. Despite the ritual being called Fuku Otoko (福男, lit. "Lucky Man"), women are also eligible to participate. If a woman wins, she becomes a "Fuku Onna" (福女, lit. "Lucky Woman").

Tracing the History of Nishinomiya Shrine

Image of a statue of Ebisu
Photo:A statue of Ebisu

Nishinomiya Shrine is the head shrine of all Ebisu shrines throughout Japan, which are worshipped as gods of good fortune. The origin of the shrine is said to originate from an idol that originally appeared off the coast of Wadamisaki, Kobe, in Osaka Bay and was enshrined by fishermen, who later entrusted it to Nishinomiya Shrine.

The main shrine is a beautiful building with an unusual structure called sanren kasuga-zukuri (a triple-pitched roof), and is designated as a National Treasure. It was donated by Tokugawa Ietsuna, the fourth shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It was destroyed by fire during an air raid during the war, but has been beautifully restored to its present appearance.

The beautiful green forest that stretches across the grounds behind the main shrine is called Ebisu no Mori (えびすの森, Ebisu Forest) and is designated as a Natural Monument by the Hyogo Prefectural Government. It is a wonderful shrine where visitors can experience nature and the long history and culture of the area.

Fuku Otoko's Course, Obstacles, and Time!

Image of the large front gate of Nishinomiya Shrine, Hyogo Prefecture
Photo:The large front gate of Nishinomiya Shrine, Hyogo Prefecture

Nishinomiya Shrine's Fuku Otoko ritual is a major event on Toka Ebisu, in which contestants race through a 230-meter long-course along a stone-paved approach from the red Akamon Gate to the main shrine building. Every year, many applicants compete for the title of "lucky man," but many give up even before the more difficult points along the course.

One of the most difficult points that eliminates many participants is the "Tenbin Curve" located at the end of the straight shot extending from Akamon Gate. Many participants have been seen on TV dropping out of the race after failing to make this turn.

You might be curious as to how fast people get to the finish line during the Fuku Otoko rituals at Nishinomiya Shrine, but they unfortunately don't record this. According to a spokesperson, the races are usually about 30 seconds long. This means that the races start and end in a flash.

Merits to Being a Lucky Man or Lucky Woman

Image of a lucky bamboo branch on Toka Ebisu
Photo:A lucky bamboo branch on Toka Ebisu

So, what happens if you're a lucky man or woman at Nishinomiya Shrine's Fuku Otoko ritual? First, you'll receive an effigy of Ebisu and a certificate. Then, you'll receive Ebisu's rice, sake, yakidai (grilled sea bream), an Ebisu mask, a happi coat, and other gifts.

Winners will also participate in shrine festivals and rituals as a lucky man or woman. The events included are as follows: rice cake pounding at the shrine in February, the Okoshiya Festival in June, and the Nishinomiya Festival in September. The winners are also invited to corporate events and other events, where they deliver good fortune to everyone as that year's Fuku Otoko or Fuku Onna.

Rules & How to Participate in Fuku Otoko

To participate in Nishinomiya Shrine's Fuku Otoko ritual, it's actually very simple. If you just want to participate, simply gather at Omote-daimon Gate in time for the 6:00 a.m. start time. However, if you are serious about becoming a Fuku Otoko, you'll need to win a drawing. The lottery draw will take place at 10:00 p.m. on January 9, with registration starting at midnight on January 10. At the registration desk, you'll have to sign a "Participant's Agreement" indicating that you agree to participate in the shrine's events on a priority basis if you become a lucky man or lucky woman.

There is a red lottery for the A block (108 people) at the front of the gate, and a blue lottery for the B block (100 people) behind the A block. All others will be placed in Block C. The lottery will be closed once it reaches the maximum enrollment. If you want to be a lucky man or lucky woman, be sure to participate in the lottery.

Summary of Nishinomiya Shrine's Fuku Otoko Event

Image of Toka Ebisu, Nishinomiya Shrine
Photo:Toka Ebisu, Nishinomiya Shrine

The sight of so many people running as fast as they can to become a lucky man is exciting to watch. Although the Toka Ebisu festival is crowded with many worshippers, it's a unique event and you can also see the unusual sakasa kadomatsu, an upside-down pine decoration. Bring a camera to take some awesome photos of your visit.

You can participate in the selection of a lucky man and become one, or just come to experience the excitement of the festival! If you're traveling to Hyogo Prefecture during this season, consider checking out the gate opening ritual, which will be held for the first time in three years, and pray for a happy new year!

【Official Website】Nishinomiya Shrine

【TripAdvisor】Nishinomiya Shrine

Written By
Last Updated : Jan. 9, 2023
平敷 篤(Atsushi Heishiki)
My name is Atsushi Heishiki, a writer who loves Japanese culture and lives in Okinawa.
Fuku Otoko 2023 – Who Will Be This Year's Lucky Man?! The Annual, High-Profile Gate Opening Ritual of Hyogo's Nishinomiya Shrine Is Back After a 3-Year Hiatus!
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