Shrine in Yamagata Pref. Celebrates Clean Air

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Worshippers take a deep breath in front of a stainless steel reflective platform at Kuki Shrine in Asahi, Yamagata Prefecture, on June 3.

ASAHI, Yamagata — The annual Air Festival got off the ground at Kuki Shrine in Asahi, Yamagata Prefecture, on June 3.

Visitors to the shrine, which is dedicated to the deity of air, were allowed access to the main shrine located about 3 meters underground during the festival through June 5.

Kuki Shrine, which was built by volunteers, stands as a symbol of gratitude and reverence for the area’s clean air. The Asahi town government designated June 5 as “Asahi Town Air Day,” which falls on the same day as the U.N.’s World Environment Day. The Air Festival takes place during this period.

On the grounds of the shrine, a 5-meter-by-5-meter square stainless steel reflective platform adds to the ambiance, as it reflects the sky and surrounding trees.

During the June 3 ceremony, visitors were accompanied by the town’s unofficial mascot, Momoiro Usahi, and performed the rituals of bowing twice, clapping four times and raising both their arms widely as they deeply inhaled. During the festival, seven local elementary school students dressed as shrine maidens performed a ceremonial dance on the stainless steel platform for the first time in four years.

“I was happy to perform the dance while being surrounded by nature and clean air,” said a 12-year-old elementary school student.