Japanese pray for end to pandemic in annual ice bath ritual at Tokyo shrine

In a ritual to purify their souls and pray for an end of the COVID-19 pandemic, a handful of Japanese people braved the cold and stepped into an ice bath at a shrine in Tokyo on Sunday.

The annual Shinto ritual at Teppou-zu Inari Shrine has gathered nationwide attention in recent years for its uniqueness and had more than 100 participants last year.

It was scaled-down this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only twelve people, most of them members of the shrine’s parishioner group, participated and no spectators allowed.

After brief physical warming up and chanting under a clear sky with the temperature at 5.1 degree Celsius (41.18 F), the participants in traditional loincloths for men and thin white gowns for women immersed themselves into a bath filled with cold water and large ice blocks.

The shrine added a theme of “warding off epidemics” to the ritual in 2021 for its 66th year.
The ceremony is held every year on the second Sunday of January.

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