Making lucky charms at Kitami Shrine to “escape the pandemic”
Normally, the sale of lucky charms – popular among worshippers at Kitami Shrine (Kitami City) during the year-end and New Year period – begins on New Year’s Day, but this year, due to measures to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus, sales began on December 20.
This time, 90 varieties and approximately 90,000 items have been prepared. On December 8, Shinto priests could be found preparing hamaya (arrows to ward off evil) to which ema (votive tablets) decorated with pictures of oxen, this year’s sign of the zodiac, are attached.
With no end to the coronavirus pandemic in sight throughout the whole of Japan, decorations include “kaya grass hoops” – which, according to legend are said to save people from pandemics – have been prepared for the first time, along with onion-shaped ornaments that come with written oracles, known as ‘Ezo-mikuji’.
The chief priest called for worshippers to avoid the crowds, saying “There’s is no rule that says the first visit of the New Year to the shrine has to be within the first three days,” adding “The sign of the zodiac for 2021 is the ox, which as an animal that moves forward very slowly. These are difficult times but hopefully we will move slowly and with certainty towards a brighter future.”
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