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[TOKYO] About 100 people took ice baths at a Shinto shrine in Tokyo on Sunday to purify their souls, and wish for good health, in one of the more colourful rituals to welcome in the New Year.
Chanting filled the air as the group, most of them men, jogged around the Teppozu Inari Shrine and did some exercises to warm up before taking the plunge in a big green tub filled with blocks of ice.
"My two children and husband all became ill with flu at the beginning of the new year, so I bathed in ice water hoping that my family will be able to stay healthy during the rest of this year," said Miho Hewa, 48.
A crowd of onlookers joined the participants in another round of chanting as they stood in the freezing water dressed in traditional white clothes, with the men in loincloths.
The event is usually held inside a shrine on the second Sunday of the year, but this year was held outside in a park, in 2 Celsius weather, near the shrine, as it is being renovated.
"The weather was harsh this year, so I couldn't think about anything but try hard to do my best to complete this," said Masashi Shimizu, 48, who has taken part in the ritual every year for more a decade.