People across Japan visit shrines on New Year's

People across Japan have paid their respects at shrines and temples to usher in the New Year.

Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture, central Japan, has been crowded since Saturday morning.

Visitors dressed warmly with the addition of face masks as they walked toward the worship hall under a cloudy winter sky. They tossed coins into an offering box and made wishes for 2022.

A 61-year-old woman said she had come to the shrine with her husband from Saga Prefecture. She said 2021 was a troublesome year due to the pandemic, and she was unable to meet friends and had to worry about social distancing.

She added she would be delighted if all her family could be happy and healthy this year.

In the town of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, where the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is located, many evacuees visited a shrine to pray for the recovery of their hometown.

All the town's residents remain in a state of evacuation since the nuclear accident at the plant in March 2011. Local officials aim to have the evacuation order lifted by June for areas around Futaba Station.

Shohatsu Shrine, which is close to the station, was damaged by the quake, but was restored in 2020.

Worshippers prayed for health and bought amulets and lucky charms.

A man in his fifties said he came to the shrine after seeing the first sunrise of the year in Futaba. He said he wished to return home as soon as possible.

He said he feels lonely as he sees fewer residents than before the disaster. He expressed hope that life in the town will be restored, and everyone can recover their peace of mind.