Photo/IllutrationApprentice shrine maidens are trained in how to don their outfits in Kasuga Taisha shrine in Nara on Dec. 23. (Hayato Kaji)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

NARA--In preparation for the Toka-Ebisu Festival in January, apprentice shrine maidens here are busy learning the ropes so they can bring luck and prosperity--their job requirement--to visitors.

This means mastering fine details that include everything from wearing clothing correctly to chanting a lucky phrase.

Six employees of affiliates of Suntory Holdings Ltd. were chosen to be “fukumusume,” or good luck maidens, at a shrine. The company nominated its employees last year as well.

On Dec. 23, the young women attended a training session at Sarakejinja shrine, a branch shrine of Kasuga Taisha shrine, a World Heritage site.

The women practiced adorning their heads with golden hats and white garments worn by “miko” (shrine maidens) which were handed over by Nobuhiro Fujioka, a Shinto priest at Sarakejinja shrine.

After offering prayers, they visited a shop within the shrine grounds where they will work during the Jan. 10 festival to practice chanting a phrase to bring good luck.

They also practiced ringing small bells, which they will shake when handing visitors lucky charms that include a fake oval gold coin and dice.

“I enjoyed the festival this year because I was able to hear the wishes of many people,” said Anri Yamaguchi, 25, who will also serve at the event as a fukumusume next year. “I want to be cheerful on the day of the festival to help bring luck to people in 2020 as well.”