Photo/Illutration Kanda Myojin shrine in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward is packed with visitors offering prayers for “good business” on the morning of Jan. 4, the first working day of the year for many people. (Ryo Ikeda)

Company employees, many wearing suits, flocked to Kanda Myojin shrine in central Tokyo to offer traditional prayers for “good business” on Jan. 4, the first working day of the year for many people.

The shrine in Chiyoda Ward is located near the Marunouchi and Otemachi business districts.

Workers from around 2,500 companies made reservations to visit the shrine on Jan. 4 and 5 alone, an official of the shrine said.

Far fewer businesses than usual sent employees to the shrine last January, the height of the third wave of novel coronavirus infections. But the figure will likely return to roughly 10,000 by the end of January as seen in normal years, according to the official.

The shrine is live-streaming the turnout on its website to urge visitors to avoid congestion.

“It was frustrating because I couldn’t make as much progress at work as I wanted to last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tomoko Fujii, 42, who visited the shrine before heading to work at an apparel company. “I prayed (at the shrine) for the pandemic to end this year.”

Hiroshi Hasegawa, 62, a business consultant, said, “I want to create business opportunities by adequately responding to a rapidly changing environment.”