The other day, after I went out to buy chocolate at my favourite store, I stopped by Shimogamo shrine on the way home. I hadn’t been there in a while, and as the shrine is within a very old forest with huge trees, it is always pleasant to go there.

Main Gate of Shimogamo ShrineIt was rather late in the afternoon and there were hardly any people, so I took my time and went to the main hall to pray – as usual a very simple “Let me stay in Japan” prayer. Probably many people would have more elaborate wishes – money, fame, whatnot, but for me this is the most important thing.

I have always wondered what the Japanese would pray for at a shinto shrine, and I finally asked some friends about that. It seems that most people ask for two very simple things: kanai anzen (家内安全) which can be translated as household or family safety, as well as hi no yojin (火の用心) which means protection from fire. One of my friends claims she is not superstitious. However, these are the only two things she would ever dare pray for. She says that if one were praying for money for example, you never know where it would come from, and whether you might not have to suffer for it in the last consequence…