Shrine For Pet Blessings

Shrine For Pet Blessings

Pet owners have been flocking to the Ichigaya Kamegaoka Hachimangu shrine in Japan since it introduced New Year ceremonies for dogs and cats in 2000 — and numbers have skyrocketed in recent years.

“Well, they’re part of the family,” 43-year-old Yuki Mitsui said, hugging two miniature dachshunds that were proudly sporting tiny fur-trimmed kimonos. “It gives me peace of mind that these little fellas can also receive an amulet that will protect them for the year.”

Visits are by appointment only. More than 500 visitors yearly bring pets dressed in brightly colored finery to the shrine, where they make an offering to the gods in return for a blessing.

Local priest Masaki Kaji revealed that he hit upon the idea of offering the Shinto rituals due to high demand from animal lovers. “Many people told me they wanted to be blessed along with their pets,” he said as a steady stream of excited poodles, terriers and chihuahuas trotted past. “So we decided to make this the best place for pets to worship.

“This is the time of year when we have most visitors to the shrine, and those numbers keep rising every year,” Kaji added. “It goes to show that pets are becoming more important to families.”

Agence France-Presse