Tokyo – Tens of millions of Japanese are expected to visit shrines and temples across the country to pray for prosperity and good health at the beginning of the New Year.
Prof. Nobutaka Inoue, a professor of religious sociology at Kokugakuin University in Tokyo, said visiting the shrines and temples was a social norm in Japan.
Inoune said that the visit also had spiritual element as many Japanese did not have specific religious affiliations.
He added that “while many Japanese don’t have specific religious affiliation, more than 70 per cent of the population offer prayers during the first three days of the New Year.
“Visiting shrines and temples is considered a social custom, as well as having a spiritual, religious element.’’
The professor said that the number of visitors to shrines, especially young people, grew in recent years, even though Japan was one of the world’s least religious countries – as measured by the proportion of convinced atheists.
The Meiji Shrine located in the heart of Tokyo is expected to receive the largest number of visitors, he added.
During the first three days of 2015, more than three million people offered prayers there.
The number of travellers passing through Narita International Airport outside Tokyo during the holiday period was expected to rise 4.1 per cent from a year earlier, to nearly 1.27 million.
Their top destinations include Hawaii, Guam and Taiwan. (dpa/NAN)