National

In Yamanashi wine country, ancient shrine offers good luck charms with a tipple twist

Kyodo

Shrines typically sell good luck charms to visitors, but those from a shrine in Yamanashi Prefecture come with a twist and are gaining popularity.

Kaikuni Ichinomiya Asama Shrine in Fuefuki is offering charms filled with local wine and an amulet to bring good health and ward off illness.

The good luck charms are 3.5-cm-long transparent vials with a strap that comes in red or white and cost ¥700 each.

The wine comes from around 40 regional wineries that offer their products to the shrine in accordance with a March festival to pray for a good grape harvest. The shrine has traditionally shared this wine with visitors.

Wine has been valued highly for its medicinal properties in the region.

Usually, sake is used as an offerings to the gods, but the use of local wine is a nod to Yamanashi Prefecture’s history. Wine-making there goes back to the early 19th century, before most regions in Japan, and grapes are said to have been harvested since the eighth century.

Yamanashi’s wine-producing region was recognized by the Cultural Affairs Agency in May as a cultural heritage site for its natural scenery with vineyards.

The shrine, also part of the cultural heritage, has a history stretching back more than 1,000 years and was originally built to soothe Mount Fuji.

Over the centuries it has moved away from its original purpose and is now dedicated to protecting the surrounding areas, including agriculture.

“This shrine has long had ties with wine-making. We wanted to take the opportunity of being a recognized cultural heritage site to promote regional history and culture,” said Masahiro Furuya, the shrine’s 61-year-old chief priest, explaining how the charms came into being.

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