Japanese pray for end to COVID-19 pandemic in annual ice bath ritual at Tokyo shrine

Japanese pray for end to COVID-19 pandemic in annual ice bath ritual at Tokyo shrine

Participants wearing protective face masks amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, take a
Participants wearing protective face masks pray as they take an ice-cold bath during a ceremony to purify their souls and to wish for overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic at the Teppozu Inari shrine in Tokyo, on Jan 10, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

TOKYO: Men wearing traditional loin clothes and women dressed in white robes clapped and chanted before going into an ice water bath during a Shinto ritual at a Tokyo shrine on Sunday (Jan 10) to purify the soul and pray for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Only a dozen people took part in the annual event at Teppou-zu Inari Shrine, scaled down this year due to the health crisis, compared to over a hundred in early 2020. Spectators were not allowed at the event.

Participants wearing protective face masks amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, take a
Participants wearing protective face masks amid the COVID-19 outbreak, warm up before taking an ice-cold bath during a ceremony to purify their souls and to wish for overcoming the pandemic at the Teppozu Inari shrine in Tokyo, on Jan 10, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

After doing warming-up exercises and chanting under a clear sky with outside temperatures at 5.1 degrees Celsius the nine male and three female participants went into a bath filled with cold water and large ice blocks. 

"I prayed that the coronavirus comes to an end as soon as possible," said 65-year-old participant Shinji Ooi, who heads the Shrine's 'Yayoikai' parishioner group, after the ritual.

Participants wearing protective face masks amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, take a
Participants wearing protective face masks pray before taking an ice-cold bath during a ceremony to purify their souls and to wish for overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic at the Teppozu Inari shrine in Tokyo, on Jan 10, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Japan has struggled to contain a recent surge in coronavirus infections, with Tokyo reporting 1,494 new cases on Sunday. 

The government declared a limited state of emergency for Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures on Thursday, covering about 30 per cent of the country's population, in a bid to stem the spread.

READ: Osaka seeks state of emergency as new Tokyo COVID-19 infections top 2,000

READ: Tokyo starts first day under COVID-19 state of emergency

Fewer participants at the Shinto ritual made the water extra cold, participant Naoaki Yamaguchi told Reuters.

"Normally we have more participants and it makes the water temperature a little bit warmer. But this year, there were just twelve people, so it (the cold) was crazy," the 47-year-old said.

The shrine added the theme of "warding off epidemics" to the annual event, which is held on the second Sunday of each year and is now in its 66th year.

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Source: Reuters

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