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Straw dolls with pictures resembling Putin nailed on trees at several shrines in east Japan

This image provided by a reader shows a straw doll, with a picture resembling Russian President Vladimir Putin attached to the head, nailed onto a sacred tree at Akagi Shrine in the city of Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture.

CHIBA -- Straw dolls with a picture resembling Russian President Vladimir Putin attached to the head were found nailed to sacred trees and other trees in multiple shrines in the east Japan city of Matsudo between mid- and late May.

    The dolls found at shrines in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, appear to be effigies to express criticism against the Russian president amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Those affiliated with the shrines and local residents have been perplexed, saying things like, "I want the sacred trees to be treated with respect," and "Shrines are not a place to put a curse on people." Chiba Prefectural Police's Matsudo Higashi Police Station has been investigating the cases on suspicions of trespassing.

    According to police, reports on the discovery of straw dolls have been continuously made since mid-May. The straw dolls had reportedly been found at nearly 10 shrines by June 7. As the shape of the dolls are similar, it is possible that the same single person is behind the different cases.

    On May 24, a male shrine official at Akagi Shrine, located near Shin-Matsudo Station, found a straw doll nailed onto the shrine's sacred tree. Paper with a picture resembling Putin was attached to the doll's head, and two nails were affixed on the head and chest. Upon discussion, the shrine reported the case to the police. The doll was later apparently burned after purifying it with salt and sake.

    The sacred tree is the community's symbol which has also been placed under a tree preservation designation by the city. Shrine official Yukihiro Tajima, 60, said, "I can understand the feeling of wanting the war to end, but please stop doing such things to the sacred tree."

    On the same day, a female visitor also found a doll nailed to a tree at Mikazuki Shrine, located about 500 meters from Akagi Shrine. According to a shrine officer, security camera footage showed a man with a doll-like object in his bag entering the shrine at around 2 p.m. on May 19. The case was immediately reported to the police, and the straw doll has since been stored away.

    Parishioner representative Nobuo Shibuya, 81, commented, "Shrines are not a place to curse, but to pray. It's worrying that there are people who will unhesitatingly do things you wouldn't normally do at shrines."

    (Japanese original by Tomohiro Shibata, Chiba Bureau)

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