Japanese 'return doll souls to heaven' in fiery ceremony
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It’s a superbly ornate gold-embossed Samurai doll that emerges from the field.
The outdated woman has packed it with care, regardless that it’s making its closing journey.
Etsuko Takahashi has quick gray hair and a slight stoop — the burden of the world has been on her shoulders for a few years.
She misplaced her son final yr after a protracted and valiant battle with most cancers.
He died at residence whereas she did what she may to alleviate his struggling — the most cancers had unfold all through his physique.
In the present day is one other tough day. She has introduced a doll she gave him when he was a child to the native shrine the place will probably be thanked for its service, blessed and despatched to heaven.
The Shinto Shinmeisha Shrine in Tokorozawa is about an hour’s drive from central Tokyo.
The service is held annually to assist folks get rid of toys and dolls they not want, however cannot convey themselves to throw away.
Ms Takahashi, like many Japanese folks, imagine dolls have souls and can’t be thrown away with the garbage.
“It is good to convey it right here — no person would need one thing that belonged to an individual who turned sick and died,” she says.
“It is a valuable factor, however I am unable to take the valuable issues with me to the subsequent world.”
At 78, she realises it is time for a clear up.
‘I felt I’d be cursed if I simply threw it away’
It is 9:00am on a Sunday, however folks carrying dolls arrive in droves.
A lady arrives with a large pink doll that’s carrying an enormous taffeta ball gown. It appears like a personality from Gone with the Wind who has not but seen the tough occasions.
“I purchased it with my first wage once I was about 20 years outdated and dealing at an organization,” Akemi Une says with a giggle.
“It was saved at my dad and mom’ residence however they’ve moved just lately. I felt I’d be cursed if I simply threw it away with out getting it blessed so I introduced it right here.”
Ms Une arms the doll over to the military of outdated males who’re working on the shrine and so they place it on the stockpile.
The doll’s smile is fastened — regardless that her proprietor is now strolling again to the automobile with out her.
The huge bulk of the dolls that arrive on the shrine are what’s generally known as Hina dolls.
Every year the frilly units of dolls, which signify the Imperial Court docket of Japan, are displayed in folks’s properties to convey luck and good well being to the ladies who stay there.
Unhappiness changed with a way of aid
One other household is carrying a child boy. He’s the third boy within the household and Ayumi Kimura is not planning to have any extra kids.
She says it’s time for her to confess the Hina dolls from her childhood won’t be handed on. They’re taking over house in her home and gathering mud.
“I really feel a bit unhappy, however I believe the dolls fulfilled their position,” she says.
For others, the disappointment of claiming goodbye is changed with an nearly seen sense of aid.
There are parallels between at present’s ceremony and the de-cluttering strategies utilized by the Japanese writer Marie Kondo, who believes you need to solely maintain gadgets in your own home that convey you a way of pleasure.
The idea of giving due to an merchandise earlier than passing it on is resonant in her writings.
Masami Ariyama has 4 kids. They arrive on the shrine together with her four-year outdated daughter clutching a Japanese Barbie doll named Rika.
The little lady appears to simply accept the destiny of her doll. Its hair is a little bit matted; it could have been a while because it was correctly coiffed.
“As they get extra toys they cease enjoying with a few of them, so I make them organise their toys annually,” the mom says.
“We determine which of them to say bye-bye and convey them right here slightly than throwing them away.”
‘We return the souls of those dolls to heaven’
The ceremony begins with drums banging and clergymen chanting.
The enormous stockpile of dolls and mushy toys, which has grown all through the morning, is blessed.
The clergymen mild a funeral pyre — they don’t seem to be allowed to burn the entire dolls, however a collection of them are added to the flames.
The gang appears on because the flames lick the faces and eat the silk robes and clothes of the dolls.
It is a solemn gathering, and plenty of bow their heads because the priest says: “We return the souls of those dolls to heaven.”
Because the flames die down, the solemnity stays. Folks depart the shrine in silence and get again on their bikes or into their vehicles.
There is a bit more room now for the journey residence.