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Station cats in Fukushima Pref. 'throw' peanuts to ward off COVID in traditional event

Second-generation honorary stationmaster Love, left, and station attendant Sakura, wearing masks of the characters from the "Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba" Japanese manga series, participate in a Setubun bean-throwing ritual at Aizu Railway's Ashinomaki Onsen Station in Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, on Feb. 3, 2022. (Mainichi/Kengo Miura)

AIZUWAKAMATSU, Fukushima -- Two feline staff members at Ashinomaki Onsen Station in this northeastern Japan city "threw" peanuts on Feb. 3, the day of the traditional Setsubun festival in Japan, in a bid to overcome the coronavirus and for the safe operation of the railroad.

    Second-generation honorary stationmaster Love and station attendant Sakura, both cats, were "tossing" peanuts with the help of their human colleagues. On Setsubun -- the day before the first day of spring in the old Japanese calendar -- people traditionally throw roasted soybeans around to symbolically drive away evil, usually represented by "oni" demons.

    Ashinomaki Onsen Station on the Aizu Railway has reportedly been in a very difficult situation since the beginning of the year when the coronavirus's omicron variant began to spread, with hardly any passengers coming to the station even on weekends.

    Marina Kobayashi, 37, a station staff member, said, "Love and Sakura worked hard to beat the demon called the coronavirus. By defeating the virus, I want everyone to come and see the cats as they did before."

    (Japanese original by Kengo Miura, Aizuwakamatsu Local Bureau)

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