Tokyo 2021: A Year of Prayers
The annual prayers at Shinto shrines in Japan at New Year's in 2021 were different than usual. It was a new year that started with anxiety and wishes. In the tourist town of Asakusa, which is centered around Sensoji Temple, foreign tourists have disappeared. To revive the town, people join hands. Kanda Shrine has accepted worshippers by keeping social distance. Prayers are offered to Jesus Christ too. In this episode, we look at people who started the year 2021 with prayers.

Before the New Year's Prayers

The Kanda Shrine is a Shinto shrine with a history of 1,300 years. The shrine's patrons include both large corporations based in Tokyo's central business district and small factories in the downtown area. It's no exaggeration to say that the new year for the Japanese economy begins with prayers at this shrine. Although worshippers decreased due to COVID-19, it has led to more time for the priests to hear the voices of the people. These are prayers that are ever-changing, yet never-changing.

A Day in the Life of a Jizo

In a part of Tokyo with a nostalgic atmosphere, standing in the Yomise Dori shopping street since before the second world war is a Jizo, a statue of a Buddhist bodhisattva of longevity. When the shopping street was destroyed in an air raid during the war, the first thing the people rebuilt was the Jizo shrine. At 3:30 a.m. every morning, there is a man who comes to clean this shrine. Every day before work, he spends an hour giving the Jizo a good clean. As the sun rises, the neighbors gradually come to pray.

Reviving Asakusa

Leading to the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa is the Nakamise Dori shopping street. Before COVID-19, it was overflowing with foreign tourists, making it difficult to even walk. But, a total of 88 stores on the street were in distress with the sudden lack of tourists. Talismans made specially by the Sensoji Temple's priest are hung from the eaves of every store. The history of Asakusa is synonymous with the temple. We followed the people of this town as they faced a critical moment in their efforts to revive their town.