19 February 2018

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02/10/2018 JAPAN

Japanese praying in Shinto shrines for athletes going to the Olympics and the World Cup

At the Gou Jinja Shinto Shrine, fans of Japanese figures skaters are praying for their victory at the PyeongChang Olympics. In Japan, it is tradition to pray for athletes, “sporting gods”, ahead of important sporting competitions.

Kyoto (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Fans of the Japanese figure skaters Satoko Miyahara and Yuzuru Hanyu have visited the Goou Jinja Shinto Shrine in Kyoto where they left written prayers for their success in the upcoming PyeongChang Olympic Games.

The temple is famous as the home of gods that protect legs and the lower back. Wake no Kiyomaro (733-799), a member of a noble family, is said to be enshrined here as a statue of an inoshishi, or Japanese wild boar. Legend has it that he injured his legs during a journey but was healed by an inoshishi.

Praying in temples dedicated to sport is an old Japanese tradition, especially on the eve of important sporting events. This year will be especially important for Japanese athletes as they will be competing in the PyeongChang Olympics in South Korea as well as the World Cup in Russia.

Indeed, even the temples dedicated to ballgames are already the scene of visits and prayers, a trend expected to grow as summer and the FIFA World Cup approach.

One shrine is Shiramine Jinguh, known for possessing "ballgame gods" and getting footballs offered by professional soccer teams.

Athletes from other disciplines also visit the site. Olympic figure skater Miyahara visited last summer at a time when she was recovering from an injury.

"She prayed that the results of her practice would show," said Yuko Kitamura, a temple priest. The shrine, he added, “seems like it is becoming a place where athletes can reflect on themselves.

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