- Title: JAPAN: Japanese plunge into icy water to kick off the New Year
- Date: 10th January 2010
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) 20-YEAR-OLD STUDENT AND BATHER NORIHIRO ABE SAYING: "I will come of age this year. That's why I participated."
- Embargoed: 25th January 2010 12:00
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Light / Amusing / Unusual / Quirky
- Reuters ID: LVA3C9H0C09YKFDPZDE9OH6CVHT
- Story Text: Japanese hope to purify their souls and sharpen their minds with ice baths in the New Year.
Dozens of Japanese plunged into ice cold water on Saturday (January 9) in hopes for purifying their souls at the start of a new year and to celebrate the "Coming of Age Day".
Braving the winter weather, more than 30 men and women showed up at a Japanese shrine, wearing only shorts or loincloths or thin white gowns before taking a "purification" dip in ice cold water.
The participants offered prayers and chants before they jogged around the shrine to warm up and set off to a freezing plunge.
The music of Japanese drums and flute accompanied the thinly-clad participants as they splashed water over themselves, an action they believe would purify their souls and bring them good luck.
Bathing in cold water or standing under waterfalls is a traditional Shinto purification rite.
Among the participants were those who wanted to mark the Coming of Age Day on Monday (January 11), a milestone event for new 20-year-olds in Japan as they can legally drink and vote.
"I will come of age this year. That's why I participated," said 20-year-old student Norihiro Abe.
Some others attended the annual event to extend best wishes to their families.
"I participate every year to pray that my family will stay healthy during the year," said fellow bather, Joji Kimura, a 37-year-old businessman.
One of the only two female participants this year endured the cold and found some encouragement.
"The economy is frigid, but it's not as cold as the icy water. This made me want to try my best this year," said 27-year-old waitress Shiori Masuda.
The global economic downturn has hurt employment and consumer sentiment in the world's second biggest economy.
Kanda Myojin, located near Tokyo's high-tech shopping district Akihabara, is known for the festival the shrine hosts in May which is one of the biggest in the country.
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