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© Reuters. Hearth-walking competition, referred to as hiwatari matsuri in Japanese, at Mt.Takao in Tokyo

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese worshippers prayed for the security of themselves and their households on Sunday by strolling barefoot with Buddhist monks over smouldering coals at an annual competition close to Mt. Takaosan.

The fireplace-walking was extra tense than normal as a result of members have been required to put on masks and preserve social distancing as a result of coronavirus pandemic. The competition was additionally restricted to 1,000 members. Final 12 months, it wasn’t open to the general public due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Passing your physique via the flames cleanses your soul and delivers your prayers to Buddha,” stated Koshou Kamimura, a Buddhist monk from Takaosan Yakuouin Temple.

“Traditionally, Mt. Takaosan is a vital place to hope for deliverance from plagues, so I felt we must always maintain the competition this 12 months with sure precautions.”

The competition, referred to as hiwatari matsuri in Japanese, has a historical past of about 50 years at Mt. Takaosan.

The monks set fireplace to wooden and Japanese cypress leaves, creating an intense bonfire. The monks then doused the flames with water, collected the embers and laid them out in two strips, over which they walked barefoot whereas chanting.

Worshippers adopted the monks, sporting masks as a result of coronavirus. Some monks carried young children over the embers as darkish smoke billowed into the air.

Tokyo is getting ready to host the Summer season Olympics this 12 months, delayed from 2020 due to the coronavirus, with home opinion polls exhibiting individuals favour limiting the variety of spectators on the video games.

“Coronavirus infections are spreading globally, so I prayed that it does not unfold any additional,” stated Eriko Nakamura, 46, as Buddhist monks chanted within the background.

“The fireplace-walking occasion is held outdoors and there are restrictions on the variety of members. In terms of the Olympics, it will likely be held indoors, so I hope they’ll restrict the variety of spectators by half.”

The variety of coronavirus circumstances in Japan is comparatively low in comparison with different international locations equivalent to the USA, though some areas together with Tokyo are nonetheless beneath a state of emergency, with the nation experiencing a 3rd wave of the pandemic.

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