Saturday, 9 December 2017

How do you say goodbye to someone special that has occupied a place in your heart, shared your apartment, and been with you for years? At Akihabara Shrine you can give them a proper spiritual farewell.

True otaku can never have too many anime figures, toys and collectibles, amassing huge collections in their homes and spending tons of money for years or even decades. Akihabara is dotted with hundreds of stores catering to all kinds of hobbies and obsessions – from gaming, figures, anime series, to manga and model kits.

Over the years, as series end and new characters are born, we’ve always wondered how owners discard unwanted toys and figures they’ve outgrown, aside from being sold in second-hand shops, or worse, being thrown away. There are so many collectible anime figures in Japan that it’s physically impossible to keep an ongoing collection for long without needing to make space for more.
Recently opened particularly for grieving otaku figure owners, Akihabara Shrine offers “memorial services” for anime figures and figurines that owners would like to let go respectfully, and express gratitude for the fond memories they’ve shared.

In Shintoism, it is believed that an inanimate object is capable of having a spirit, and when a person owns that item they also develop a temporary relationship. However, when the owner loses his or her emotional attachment to the toy, it is considered “deceased” and that’s the time to officially let go and give these possessions a graceful exit. Similar to the Shinto ceremony called ningyo kuyo, which is held in Japan annually to pray for dolls, the “memorial service” for toys is performed by the Shinto priest at the new Akihabara Shrine as a way to purify their spirits too.

The ceremony can be as solemn as a funeral because it marks the end of a relationship between two spirits and it also a respectful way of saying farewell to a spirit that once became a part of the owner’s life.

At the Akihabara Shrine, owners simply need to bring their anime figures and figurines to the shrine, where maidens (miko) will be ushering and assisting them through the process. Once you’ve filled in the form at the counter and paid the memorial service fee, the ceremony will be held on the fourth floor, where a Shinto priest receives the toy and places it on a wooden box in front of the altar.

Following a short prayer, he uses a purification wand to release the spirit of the object (called o-harai). It is a solemn ritual and the owner can stand behind the priest to observe and pray with him. Finally, these anime figures and figurines will be kept by the priest and scheduled to be burnt in the mountains at a later date. Owners have the option to join the burning ritual to give a final goodbye to their former friends.

While the inside of the shrine is filled with anime figures of all kinds, they are mostly to create ambiance, much in a way traditional shrines and Buddhist temples have small statues memorialising the dead or gods and goddesses. If you’re a figure lover coming to Japan, what better way to say goodbye than to bring them to the land of their birth and give them a proper farewell?

Akihabara Shrine
Opening hours: 10AM to 7PM
Closest station: Akihabara station (10 minute walk)

Sotokanda building 1F / 4F
1-6-1 Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku

Speaking of Akihabara...

... you can find tons of information on Akiba and other Tokyo otaku spots in my brand-new Tokyo Geek's Guide. Check it out.

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