Heading for success

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Miko shrine maidens carefully hang exam-passing hachimaki headbands to dry in the sun on Wednesday, in Hofu, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Shrine maidens at Hofu Tenmangu Shrine in Hofu, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on Wednesday began washing hachimaki headbands that had been worn by students as they studied intensely for their school entrance exams.

The shrine is dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane, a Heian period (794-late 12th century) scholar who was deified as the god of learning. The shrine sells a charm set that includes an ema wooden votive tablet and a hachimaki. It asks those who pass their exams to return the hachimaki, which it then washes and distributes for free as good luck charms to other students preparing for their exams.

This year, about 3,000 were returned, some bearing handwritten messages, such as “I will definitely pass the exam.” The shrine maidens carefully hung them to dry in the sun.