Fewer humans visiting shrines for the New Year

The period between January 1st and January 3rd, when most people have a break from work and school, is known as 三が日 sanganichi and is traditionally when most people visit shrines or temples to pray for good fortune in the new year.

However, as reported in the Japan Times, the pandemic has kept many people at home this year. At the famous Meiji Jingu shrine, for example, less than half the number of people visited than in previous years.

A cat's prayer?

If you haven't visited a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple in Japan before, praying is usually done at the 拝殿 haiden (worship hall). For the traditional New Year's visit, known as 初詣 hatsumōde, it is customary to stop in front of the 賽銭 saisen offertory box, make a donation (usually a 5-yen coin, which is said to bring good luck), then shake a thick woven rope, known as the 鈴の緒 suzu no o, to shake the bell and call the god(s).

Sunrising | © PIXTA

Whether it was due to what may have been a smaller human turnout than usual or simply the consequence of feline curiosity (or both), one black cat captured by Twitter user nori (@nori22) in a Shinto shrine on January 2nd looked like it may have been in a praying mood.

Reproduced with permission from nori (@nori22)

"(The cat) was visiting (to pray at the shrine)"

First, it was inspecting the grounds...

"(The cat's) observing"

...but then, the cat stood up on its back paws and grabbed the rope. After sniffing at it for a while, it looks like it tried to move it. Maybe it wanted to shake the rope?

"It doesn't ring..."

Maybe the shrine will consider placing a smaller rope and bell next to the main one so that cats can pray too. Of course, it will take more than prayers to make a difference, but we humans can use all the help we can get to get through this pandemic.

But then again, maybe that's a bit selfish of humans to think that way. After all, cats probably have their own motivations and desires too.

In reaction to this series of viral Tweets by nori, the first of which has 186,000 likes and 45,000 retweets at the time of writing, some people imagined what the cat could have prayed for. Here were a few of the comments:

  • "I pray for (cats to) get their own 干支 eto [Chinese zodiac animal]."
  • "I hope I'll pass my interview with Kuroneko Yamato [a famous delivery service with a black cat logo]"
  • "I hope this year, I'll finally have chance to eat some Churu [a famous brand of cat food]"

What do you think it was doing in the shrine?

By - Ben K.