The entrance to Meiji Shrine reminds me of Nara. The wide gravel path leads you deeper into the forest, away from the concrete jungle of Tokyo. Once we reached the shrine, there were two observations. First, families were arriving with their kids in traditional garb. Is this just something they do on Sundays? Second, there were thousands of old toys all over the place. Are these being donated?
I just recently found the answers and it turns out that we got lucky. First, it was the day of Shichi-Go-San, a festival that celebrates the growth of children as they reach the ages of three, five, and seven (Shichi-Go-San means 7-5-3). It’s a rite of passage where they dress up the children and partake in a ceremony to pray for a long and healthy life.
The second thing that was happening that day is a bit more unusual. It happened to be Doll Thanksgiving Day. The Japanese believe dolls have souls so they can’t throw them away. Instead, they bring them here to be enshrined. The owners write messages of thanks to their dolls for their years of “service” and a purification rite is performed by a Shinto priest to return them to mere physical entities.
After giving thanks to the dolls, they are incinerated. This would make an interesting sequel for Toy Story. Will the souls of Buzz and Woody be enshrined and their bodies burned? Or will they escape?