Kinomiya Shrine in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, is quite a sight at this time of year.
The Shinto priestesses, already in their striking white and red robes, are surrounded by an explosion of color: Pink, blue, white, and red.
What on earth are we talking about? Why, the priestesses are making Mayudama.
These are decorative colored spheres mounted on a Japanese clover branch, together with images of fish, or the god of wealth. The shrine makes almost a thousand of these every year, and worshipers at the shrine during this period can purchase them for good luck in the coming year.
The tradition goes back to the Edo era, when Atami was a very prolific city known for its silk producing industry. For this reason, the colorful decorations recall the shape of a silkworm’s cocoon. And they were traditionally used to wish for a very prolific year in the silk business.
These days, they are used as a good-luck charm for safety in the household and prosperity in business.
One might wonder, as an outsider to Shinto, if traditions like the Mayudama have spread to other shrines as well? The interesting thing is that although there are similar traditions, localized talisman and objects make the singular shrines special. And Mayudama is one of them.
The Mayudama are sold for a limited time only from the end of November until roughly December 25. If you have a chance while visiting town of Atami, try to find time to visit Kinomiya Shrine. You will be in for an explosion of color.
(Click here to read the related story in Japanese)
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Author: The Sankei Shimbun