lifestyle

Wishing well boom attracts legions of ladies—and commercial opportunism

15 Comments
By Rebecca Milner

In the back corner of the garden at Meiji Shrine, there is a well. Called Kiyomasa no Ido, it is said to have been dug in the 16th century by the warlord Kato Kiyomasa. “Nobody used to go to that part of the park,” says the middle-aged ticket taker. “Maybe 20 people a day at most.”

All of that changed in December 2009, when celebrity palm reader Shuhei Shimada told TV viewers that he’d experienced good luck following a visit there. This claim launched a steady stream of pilgrims, and more than a year later, the garden sees thousands of visitors lining up to photograph the small pool of clear water on weekends. Urban legend dictates that using this picture as your cell phone’s wallpaper is good luck.

This is not an isolated incident. It’s part of a larger fascination with “power spots,” areas said to project protective or positive energy. Hundreds of these locations are said to exist, both in Japan and overseas (Hawaii is full of them, naturally). For a complete rundown of the most popular, you only need to pick up Shimada’s "Definitive Countrywide Guide to Lucky Power Spots," or any number of similar publications released during the last few years.

“Since Japanese celebs started visiting power spots and experiencing their effect—like something good happening or achieving a goal—the mass media has frequently featured the topic on TV, and in magazines and books,” says Kawasaki-based blogger Kirin Suzuki, explaining how power spots went from niche to mainstream.

In Tokyo, top sites include Tokyo Dai Jingu in Iidabashi, the pond at Inokashira Park and Todoroki Ravine in Setagaya. While “all-purpose” good luck spots like Kiyomasa’s Well attract a broad range of visitors — from young couples to extended families — visitors to Tokyo Dai Jingu are almost entirely female. Deities of creation and marriage are enshrined there, and the shrine itself, which serves as the Tokyo branch of the Grand Shrine in Ise, does a mean business in love amulets. Mt Fuji — also considered a power spot — saw a record 320,000 climbers last season.

These locales aren’t exactly new; in fact, they are all tied in some way to the ancient practice of Shintoism. What is a relatively new phenomenon is the mainstream interest in traveling to remote corners of Japan in the name of luck and the commercial opportunism that has followed. The term “power spot” itself is attributed to Masuaki Kiyota, a purported psychic who first used the phrase in the 1990s. However, the TV show "Aura no Izumi" (Fountains of Aura), which ran from 2005-2009 on TV Asahi, is largely credited with popularizing the current interest in auras, past lives, the supernatural and power spots.

While Suzuki isn’t into the trend herself, she can see why other women are. “There are many Japanese women who want to get married, but have difficulties in finding a good life partner. Visiting one of the shrines that is famous as a power spot sounds like a good solution,” she says. “I think the power spot boom naturally has more affinity with women. Japanese women are sensitive to ‘what’s new’ — the so-called ‘boom,’ and to this effect, they can be influenced by mass media.”

While the fad appears harmless, Mariko Yokokawa, a professor of cultural anthropology at Keio University, is wary of what she perceives as a reliance by Japanese women on fortunetellers and luck. Based on her observations, she feels that “this arises from a sense of powerlessness, an inability to control one’s future. Although this is partly their responsibility, it also comes from a lack of professional opportunity for women, and the strong wish to find a ‘love’ to support their sense of worth.”

This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


15 Comments
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While the fad appears harmless, Mariko Yokokawa, a professor of cultural anthropology at Keio University, is wary of what she perceives as a reliance by Japanese women on fortunetellers and luck.

It's not as if people don't see the virgin Mary in other countries ... this isn't exclusive to Japan.

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Let's see, sucking off of a power spot.

“this arises from a sense of powerlessness, an inability to control one’s future. Although this is partly their responsibility, it also comes from a lack of professional opportunity for women, and the strong wish to find a ‘love’ to support their sense of worth.”

Is that justification?

It is not a good idea to blend popular psychology (too changeable) with religion and ambition. Many dark souls have been the beneficiaries with the blend of those three--or pick two (three stooges alert...).

Sounds like parasitism on all sides.

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Superstition: Alive, well and flourishing.

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Didn't have pictures and cell phones in the 16th century did they?

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If a famous person visited a public restroom, and claimed that "something good happened", that place would be inundated with photo-snapping people from around the country. It never ceases to amaze me how things boom here when a tarento introduces something. I feel sorry for the bust after when the trend dies as suddenly as it boomed, and the manufacturer of the product that was introduced is suddenly left with 300% capacity...

You realize that if a famous person says that the Vornado air circulator (not a "fan") is the cat's meow (it really is, actually) then there will be no availability for this summer when we have to cut our energy by 20-30% (see other related JT article). Better get your vornados now!

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methinks those people need to lay off the videogames for a while. they're confusing it with reality.

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Oh what a surprise. A TV psychic makes an unsupportable claim about a place, and a legion of deluded spinsters swarm to it. I wonder if there is any financial connection between Shimada and the curators of Meiji Shrine?

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i've got a power spot. its between my legs

And have you found it to attract... ah... "commercial opportunism"?

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Hey, I just came with an idea. I'll get a palm reader on TV to say the same thing about the bird bath in my back yard. We could split the profits. People would have drop in 500 yen coins for the pleasure of making their wishes. Then they could pay 2000 yen to have my wife read their palms, or tea leaves.

Mukai's bird bath - the new power spot.

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I see a well I think "Ringu" and I would be too scared Sadako would pull me down.

scary scary ...

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All the lonely sheeple

Where do they all come from...

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"There's a sucker born every minute." ---P.T. Barnum

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I have used a wishing well and my wish came true the next day! Thank you, Wishing Well!!! This is a great trend and totally harmless.

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there is no connection to the original sense of awe found in certain places in nature and the "power spot".

power as such in this sense is associated with personal gain, personal status vis-a-vis others.

on the other hand, a sense of awe arising from an encounter with an inspiring place in nature speaks of a respect and admiration for something that has an entirely independent existence from oneself which enhances one's own existence by its existing.

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Japanese women are sensitive to ‘what’s new’ — the so-called ‘boom,’ and to this effect, they can be influenced by mass media.”

ROFL!! So basically this is what we call "NAIVE" at its best.

Although this is partly their responsibility, it also comes from a lack of professional opportunity for women, and the strong wish to find a ‘love’ to support their sense of worth.”

Yeah, good luck with that!

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