Kiyoshi Miyasaka climbs the stone steps of his shrine, autumn leaves crunching under his feet. The Shinto priest, dressed in white, aims an orange leaf blower at a row of cobblestones and clears the path of fallen leaves.

"I know people would rather see a lone priest sweeping up with his broom," he says. "But we're a bit more modern than that, and frankly, I can't get to all the leaves otherwise."

It is an unseasonably warm November morning. The trees only changed shades a few weeks ago, and the steep hill behind the shrine looks as though it's on fire. The 69-year-old eventually puts down the roaring machine and sweeps up the lingering leaves into neat piles. Then he changes into formal robes to offer a tray of rice, sake, salt and water at the shrine's altar, and begins his prayers.