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Shinto clergy stand in cold winter river for 5 mins in central Japan purification ritual

Shinto clergy participate in the purification ritual in the Tenryu River in Hamamatsu's Higashi Ward, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Jan. 20, 2021. (Mainichi/Koichi Fukuzawa)

HAMAMATSU, Shizuoka -- Local Shinto clergy members in this central Japan city underwent a traditional purification ritual by entering a cold river at the chilliest time of year on the morning of Jan. 20.

    The rite was performed on the first day of "Daikan," which is said to be the east Asian calendar's coldest season. Men in loincloths and women in white coats, both wearing "hachimaki" headbands, entered the Tenryu River to purify their bodies and souls.

    The 34th edition of the annual event was held by the youth division of a local Shinto organization comprising clergy aged 40 or younger. Around 30 members chanted words of purification while standing in the chest-deep cold water for about five minutes. According to organizers, the air temperature in the Shizuoka Prefecture city of Hamamatsu at 7 a.m., around the time the ritual was held, was negative 1 degrees Celsius and the water was 0.3 C. The participants' bodies were completely red upon getting out of the river.

    It was the third time participating for 34-year-old Ayumi Suzuki from Ubuginu Shrine in the city's Kita Ward. "It was very cold, but now my mind is clear," she said. "A new year doesn't start without this."

    Morihiro Kamo, 37, from Oki Shrine in the city's Nishi Ward said, "I usually do this to purify myself, but this year I did it to pray for the end of the coronavirus pandemic."

    (Japanese original by Koichi Fukuzawa, Hamamatsu Bureau)

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