KASHIHARA, Nara Pref. — A three-footed crow may seem a mysterious idea to say the least, or downright weird to be more blunt.
But as a prelude to the World Cup soccer finals cohosted by Japan and South Korea, items bearing images of the legendary crow, “yatagarasu,” are proving unexpectedly popular at a shrine dedicated to Emperor Jinmu, described as the first emperor in the “Kojiki,” Japan’s oldest existing chronicle.
In a rare move for such a traditional institution, Kashihara Jingu Shrine began this month selling “omamori” good luck charms and “ema” votive plaques bearing the emblem of the Japan Football Association, which uses the yatagarasu as its official symbol.
According to the eighth-century Kojiki, a yatagarasu was sent from heaven to show Emperor Jinmu the way to Kashihara when he became lost in the mountains of Kumano in present-day southern Wakayama Prefecture. Led by the crow, the emperor made his way through what is now Mount Yoshino in Nara Prefecture to Kashihara, where he later built a palace.
The JFA emblem, in which the crow places one of its three feet on a soccer ball, was adopted in 1931 to represent the idea that the bird leads the soccer world in Japan, the association said.
The launch of the products by the shrine came as part of efforts to boost enthusiasm for the World Cup in the historic city that is to be a base for Tunisia, in Group H along with Japan, Belgium and Russia, said Masataka Kubota, a priest at the shrine.
The charm, called “kachimamori,” or winning charm, is being sold for 1,000 yen while the price tag for a plaque is 500 yen. The shrine also sells its usual lucky charms and plaques for those hoping for good fortune in more prosaic areas of their lives.
“The charm is meant to help its holder’s team win the match,” Kubota explained. “We rarely sell a new charm specifically dedicated to winning like this kachimamori, but the World Cup is a festival and we hope Japan can win, so we decided to give the new goods a go.”
Although Kashihara Jingu initially stocked 200 plaques and 200 charms in white and blue motif, the same colors as the Japan team jerseys — they were sold out in a few days after the media reported the news, Kubota said.
The success of the new items prompted the shrine to increase production, while orders have kept pouring in from all over Japan, especially from Tokyo.
In the first 10 days, more than 1,200 charms and plaques sold out, something “unprecedented” at the shrine, Kubota said, noting the shrine will keep selling the items until at least the end of the World Cup on June 30.