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Tokyo shrine prepares bird figures for annual ritual

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Finishing touches are added to rows of wooden statuettes of uso, or Eurasian bullfinch, at Kameido Tenjin shrine in Koto Ward, Tokyo, on Tuesday. The wooden birds carved by priests and other shrine staff will be used at the shrine’s Usokae-shinji ritual on Jan. 23-25.

The shrine sells wooden figures of the bird every year as the uso, whose name is a homonym of the Japanese word for falsehood, is believed to turn bad things into lies and exchange them for good fortune. It is also believed that one can attract good fortune by bringing the old year’s bird figure to the shrine and exchanging it for a new one. This year, the shrine expects to sell about 30,000 carved uso statuettes, which come in 11 different sizes, from the pocket size of 4 centimeters tall to big ones taller than 20 centimeters. The ritual will be held for three days, one day longer than in an ordinary year, to ease crowding and avoid spreading the novel coronavirus.