Fewer visiting Meiji Jingu shrine on New Year's

Crowds of people were visiting Meiji Jingu, a major Shinto shrine in central Tokyo, early Friday after the coronavirus outbreak put the brakes on the tradition of visiting the shrine overnight on New Year's Eve.

Meiji Jingu normally attracts about 3 million visitors during the first three days of January.

Usually, its gates are open all night on New Year's Eve, but this year they were closed between 4 p.m. on December 31 and 6 a.m. on January 1 to avoid congestion.

People began to gather in front of the gates at around 5 a.m., and were allowed inside the compound an hour later.

Masked worshippers were seen keeping a meter apart from one another as they lined up in front of the worship hall to toss coins into a giant makeshift offering box.

Visitors can buy arrow amulets and good-luck charms at the shrine, but are unable to touch the items prior to purchasing.

The shrine says the number of visitors before noon on Friday was less than half that of a normal year.

A man in his 70s who came with his family said they came earlier than usual to avoid the crowds, but hardly anyone was in sight.

A visitor in her 20s told NHK she came to pray that the pandemic will be contained. She said last year was a terrible year as she had less work due to the outbreak.