TOKYO – Dozens of people marked on Sunday the New Year by embracing the cold to purify their souls, taking to ice-water baths in the Japanese capital.
At the Teppozu Inari Shinto Shrine in central Tokyo, around 100 men and women joined the icy ceremony, one of several such rituals held annually in Japan.
The men, wearing only white loincloths and headbands, and the small number of robe-clad women, first took part in group stretching exercises to get their blood pumping and warm their bodies up before taking the icy plunge, although the weather outside the pool was a balmy nine degrees on Sunday morning.
At the appointed time, the participants headed to a wide, green pool set up inside the shrine and jumped into the frigid water.
Most were shivering but managed to withstand the cold, and stood clasping their hands together for about two minutes, then jumped out, performed some exercises and jumped back in, a process they repeated three times.
Ice baths are among several customs Japanese perform at Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples during the New Year period, including the first such visit of the year done on Jan. 1-3, which is known as “hatsumode.”