A Shinto shrine in central Japan's Aichi Prefecture is looking to identify the anonymous sender of a request for an amulet, after receiving a letter that appears to be from the town of Karumai in Iwate Prefecture, northeastern Japan.
Iwate Prefecture is still yet to confirm a single infection of the novel coronavirus, but its residents are being asked to refrain from leaving its borders for any nonessential or nonurgent reasons.
Iwazu Tenmangu Shrine in Okazaki received the letter on May 9; it simply reads, "Please send me an amulet." Shrine staff believe the sender wants to come and collect the item themselves but can't, and they wish to send one to them in any way that they can. They have put up a notice on their website and social media appealing for anyone with more information to come forward.
The letter was delivered in an envelope and written on a sheet of paper that appeared to have been torn out of a writing pad. Its short message was written horizontally. No sender's details were provided, and a postmark indicates it was dispatched from the town of Karumai in Iwate on May 7.
The head of the shrine and others have taken to their official website, Facebook, Twitter and other means to get more information. They've had numerous responses from people wishing them well in finding the person, and promising to speak to acquaintances living in the town, but so far no conclusive leads have come to light.
According to the Karumai Post Office, the Iwate Karumai postmark is used on all of the mail collected in the town, with the exception of dispatches from its Hareyama and Sannai districts. The post office processes between 1,000 and 2,000 letters and postcards a day, and has said, "We have few clues, and it's difficult to narrow it down to a district."
Iwazu Tenmangu Shrine is known as a place for warding off ailments, and it's said that from the Edo Period (1603-1868) many people have come to the shrine to pray to be healed. Locally it is also famous for its connection to god of knowledge Tenjin, and its amulets for wishes to pass exams are popular.
The head of the shrine, Noriaki Hattori, 72, said that based on factors including the letter and the handwriting, it "was probably written by an elementary or middle school student." Although there are no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Iwate, calls to avoid traveling outside its borders have been in effect from April 17.
Hattori speculated, "Perhaps while they were anxious and feeling like they needed to reach out for something, they came across us by chance." He continued, "This also is guidance from Tenjin. I want to send the amulet as soon as possible."
Anyone with information about the sender is advised to contact the Iwazu Tenmangu Shrine on 0564-45-2525 (In Japanese).
(Japanese original by Tomoe Sampei, Rikuzentakata Local Bureau)