Japanese Doll Memorial Celebration at the Shinto Shinmeisha Shrine.
Every year, the Shinto Shinmeisha Shrine in Tokorozawa is home to a ceremony which brings peace to the living because it sends the souls of dolls to heaven.
Many in the Japanese culture believe that dolls, like humans, have souls, and therefore cannot be thrown away like other garbage, reports ABC News Australia.
Etsuko Takahashi, who traveled to Tokorozawa to add a doll she gave to her son when he was a baby, said, “It’s good to bring it here — nobody would want something that belonged to a person who became sick and died.”
Her son had recently died after a long battle with cancer. The gold-embossed Samurai doll will be thanked for its service, blessed and sent to heaven.
While Takahashi is right, most people wouldn’t want a toy that came from somebody who was sick, there is another reason for the ceremony at Shinto Shrine. Some people just can’t bring themselves to dispose of the dolls, as they hold meaning or significance because of who owned the doll. The ceremonial blessing of the doll’s soul gives them peace.
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Another mother, Akemi Une, brought dolls to the ceremony because she has only sons, and is not planning on having any more children. “I feel a bit sad, but I think the dolls fulfilled their role,” she said while holding her infant son.
The dolls are collected by men who are working at the shrine for the ceremony, which includes the banging of drums and the chanting of priests.
Some of the dolls are added to a funeral pyre which a priest lights. Not all of the dolls, though, as they are not permitted to burn them all.
Those who gathered for the ceremony watch quietly as the flames engulf the dolls and other soft toys. Then, as the fire dies down, they leave the shrine in silence and return to their lives.