Shinto shrine sells charm offering to cancel this year's misfortunes

Crowds have been flocking to a Shinto shrine in northeastern Japan, wishing to make all the bad things that happen this year into something good.

They are coming for a 4-day festival that began on Thursday at Takahata Tenmangu shrine in Fukushima City. The event takes place in January and April every year at the shrine.

The key attraction is a lucky charm on sale -- a carved wooden bird that's said to turn disasters and other adversities into "lies," and replace them with good fortune.

The talisman is based on a legend about a flock of birds called "uso-dori," or Eurasian Bullfinch, that saved shrine visitors from a swarm of bees. "Uso" means "a lie" in Japanese.

One man in his 50s who came first to buy it said he had been waiting in line since the evening of the previous day. He said he feels the charm always works, and that he hopes it makes this year something good, too.

Another visitor in her 70s said she hopes that this year will be a good one, despite the ongoing wave of coronavirus infections and the rising costs of living.