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'Guardian' giant eel found in Mie Pref. shrine pond

A giant eel a little over 1.3 meters long is seen at Mitarashi Shrine on Toshi Island in Toba, Mie Prefecture. (Photo courtesy of Kazutoshi Hamaguchi)

TOBA, Mie -- A giant eel a little over 1.3 meters long was caught with a net at a pond in Mitarashi Shrine on Toshi Island in this city but was soon returned to its home as workers believe it has a "guardian spirit."

    Some 10 workers at the shrine and followers were searching the pond, which is about 7 meters in diameter, on Feb. 10, a day before National Foundation Day, after rumors spread about a big eel possibly living there. It's a mystery why the eel, which weighs about 3.5 kilograms, was in the pond as the shrine is located on a hill.

    In 2008, workers noticed a big tree at the shrine had a shape like the face of a dragon and they started to worship it as a dragon god. The two curious finds have amused shrine staff and they commented, "The shrine is protected by the dragon in the sky and the eel on the ground."

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