Shrines Help Pump up Blood Donations through New Campaign

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Workers call for visitors to Okunitama Shrine in Fuchu, Tokyo, to take part in a blood drive on Saturday.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to the cancellation of blood drives at companies and event venues, but a campaign calling for donors to give at shrines — at a time when annual visits to these sites are traditional — has picked up.

The “Jinja de kenketsu” (blood donations at shrines) campaign offers blood donors a memento in the form of a stamp notebook on which they can get an original seal featuring the campaign. The seal is quite similar to the calligraphy-style goshuin red stamps that visitors receive at shrines.

The campaign, which ran from Saturday to Monday near Okunitama Shrine in Fuchu, Tokyo, drew a total of about 150 donors, most of whom were visitors making their annual New Year shrine trip known as hatsumode.

The campaign organizer, the General Foundation for International Disaster Countermeasure, is a Tokyo-based organization comprised of lawyers, doctors, shrine priests and others involved in activities that support areas affected by natural disasters.

The pandemic has made it difficult to conduct blood drives, so the initiative was launched at Asakusa Shrine in Taito Ward, Tokyo, in July last year. In all, about 500 volunteers gave blood at 11 locations throughout Tokyo and elsewhere, according to the organization.

The New Year’s campaign was held on the grounds of a public hall near the shrine to avoid the so-called Three Cs of closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings at Okunitama Shrine.

There were so many volunteers eager to donate blood that some had to make appointments for another day, the organization said.

“The stamp is a good idea because it motivates people to donate blood. I may go to another shrine [to donate] next time,” said 43-year-old company employee Ryuta Yamada, a donor from Fuchu City.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A notebook, handed out during the blood donations at shrines campaign, is a memento on which donors can obtain original seals from various shrines.