Japanese plunge into ice water to pray for new year

STORY: Parishioners of a shrine in Tokyo braved the cold and stepped into an ice bath on Sunday (January 8) to purify their souls and pray for the new year.

Thirty-three men in loincloths and seven women in white gowns, dipped into a cold bath pool filled with ice blocks twice and chanted for about 4 minutes in total.

"My toes get sore (in water), but when it's finished I feel refreshed. It's an annual event where we pray for health. I feel like the new year won't start without doing this," said 75-year-old Yoshihiko Shibata, the oldest participant who have taken part in this ritual ceremony for 18 years.

The 68th annual Shinto ritual at Teppouzu Inari Shrine was held under a blue sky with temperature hovering about 9 Celsius degree (48.2 Frahrenheit). The ritual originally began in 1955, when it was inspired by the former chief priest splashing cold water onto himself to pray for the local community's well-being.