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West Japan temple holds ritual to pray for early end of coronavirus outbreak

A "goma" ritual is seen during an event to pray for an early end to the coronavirus outbreak, at Kinpusen-ji temple in the town of Yoshino, Nara Prefecture, on March 6, 2020. (Mainichi/Kenichi Kayahara)

YOSHINO, Nara -- A Buddhist ritual to pray for an early end to the novel coronavirus outbreak was held at the Kinpusen-ji temple, designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, in this historic western Japan town on March 6.

The temple livestreamed the "goma" rite of burning offerings to invoke divine help on social media starting at 1 p.m., and also asked people in temples, shrines, households and offices across Japan to pray together. More than 600 people in the country expressed their support, with one saying, "I will offer a prayer to coincide with the time of the ritual," according to the temple.

About 50 ritual participants on-site were members of Kinpusen-ji and the Ominesan-ji temple in the prefectural village of Tenkawa who follow ascetic practices in the mountains. A monk read out a prayer and the ascetics chanted sutras.

Yoshitomo Gojo, head monk at Kinpusen-ji, said, "As religious events have been cancelled across Japan, I want to gather up a lot of prayer in this hard time and hope people will have strong hearts as they face this crisis."

Yoshio Sakamoto, 71, who visited the temple from the Osaka Prefecture city of Sakai, also in western Japan, said, "We can do nothing but pray," and offered a prayer with his hands close together.

(Japanese original by Kenichi Kayahara, Gojo Local Bureau)

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