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Asia

'Maybe the gods could also help in Fukushima'

A visit to the Meiji shrine in Tokyo reveals that while many Japanese pray for the victims of the March 11 disaster, the sense of an acute crisis has passed and given way to more personal matters.

Devotees flock to the Meiji shrine in Tokyo

The Meiji shrine is the most popular shrine in Tokyo

Traditionally, a visit to a Shinto shrine in Japan starts with the ritual cleansing. Water is said to wash away bad deeds and words, and only after completing this ritual, guests are allowed to enter the shrine.

Water is provided in front of the shrine for the ritual cleansing

Visitors wash their hands and moisten their lips with water to symbolise the cleansing of body and mind

Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan. Shinto devotees believe that every tree, stone or building is home to a deity. To greet the god living in the shrine, people throw money into a wooden box near the entrance, and clap their hand, twice.

The Meiji shrine is situated in the middle of one of the most beautiful parks in Tokyo. It is the biggest shrine in the capital and because of its location also the most popular one.

Praying for some peace of mind

These days, many devotees are flocking to the Meiji shrine. Yasuko Onuma is one of them. The 26-year-old Onuma visits the shrine twice, maybe three times a year. This time she dropped by because she was in the vicinity and because it is so beautiful outside. She prayed for the situation in Fukushima to get better soon.

Yasuko Onuma standing in front of the Meiji shrine in Tokyo

Yasuko Onuma visits the Meiji shrine to ease her mind

"I came here because of the earthquake", she confesses. "It was so tragic and now we also have problems with the nuclear reactor, I’m really worried because of this."

A lot of people who come to the shrine are praying for the victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. But the feeling of an acute crisis has passed for some, since the worst case scenario hasn’t happened yet and the Fukushima nuclear scare could last for weeks to come.

Life goes on

Most citizens visit the Meiji shrine because of their private problems. 21-year-old Kaname Aoki is in the capital only for a couple of days. He is trying to get a job. For the past four weeks, he has only received rejections.

According to Aoki, the generation of the 40- and 50-year-olds is very strong in Japan. "At this age, people are not retiring, that’s why it is so difficult for us young ones to join the workforce," he adds.

Devotees put prayers and wishes on wooden tablets

Seeking support from the divine powers by writing your prayers on a wooden tablet

Aoki has put his prayers on an ema, a wooden tablet. Hundreds of emas with all the hopes, prayers and whishes are hung on a long board outside the Meiji shrine. Most of the people pray for passing a test, staying healthy or ask for help in solving a problem. Aoki is hoping to find a job soon. And maybe the gods could also help in Fukushima, he adds quietly.

Author: Silke Ballweg (zer)
Editor: Thomas Bärthlein

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