Don’t even think of tossing your Daruma figures, dolls or stuffed animals in the Divine Trash Bin! The very existence of this sign on the collection point outside the Meiji Shrine suggests there’s a major issue with people chronically flinging the Wrong Sort Of Stuff into the sacred New Year’s bonfires: grubby Pikachus, dolls that have been given one too many haircuts with the nail scissors and Daruma figures one has had since first grade with one eye still not colored in because Daruma-san never came across with that pony.
It’s not surprising there’s confusion, though – any stuff that has an element of the sacred has to be burned at a shrine instead of being kicked to the curb on Burnable Trash Day. At New Years, last year’s shimenawa, o-mikuji, o-mamori, and representations of the kami-sama that live in household shrines must be exchanged for new models, because the old ones are tapped out from absorbing bad luck all year long and/or protecting the user from crazy drivers, coming down with this year’s version of the flu, and getting an F on that test one could have studied harder for. The dolls girls put out at Hina Matsuri (Girls’ Day) in March have to be “cremated” too, when they’re no longer in service, because they have the power to grant a wish or two if you treat them nicely, but can punish daughters who leave them out on their red steps too long by making sure they get married late or not at all.
Maybe people aren’t so sure about stuffed animals and dolls, though, and just want to play it safe. After all, who wants to be haunted by zombie teddy bears and Barbies that weren’t given a proper Viking Funeral?
Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Tokyo
Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!