The Blessed Man

Photograph by Yosuke Kashiwakura

The Saidai-ji Eyo festival, considered one of the three strangest festivals in Japan, is a Buddhist ritual in which 9,000 men compete to grab just a pair of sacred wooden batons to decide who will be the "blessed man" for the year. The over 500-year-old tradition of Eyo is based on an underlying understanding of the state of human life, greater than the ideals and trends of a single generation, and this idea has been cherished and passed down through the centuries.

(This photo and caption were submitted to the 2013 National Geographic Photo Contest .)

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