Priests peer into future on frozen Nagano lake

Kyodo

A Shinto ritual was held Monday on the frozen surface of Lake Suwa in Nagano Prefecture to make predictions on weather, social trends and crop harvests based on a streak of elevated ice cracks observed Saturday for the first time in four years.

A priest from nearby Yatsurugi Shrine, together with devotees, checked the exact location of the streak of cracks and performed a purification rite. The predictions will be made later at the shrine by comparing data with past records.

The natural phenomenon, known as “omiwatari,” occurs after ice on the surface of the lake repeatedly expands and contracts in concert with temperature changes from day to night, causing the cracks to rise.

In mythology, omiwatari is believed to trace the path taken when the male god at the shrine on the southern coast of the lake visited the female god at the shrine on the lake’s northern coast.