I stopped before the shrine, my younger sister’s hand tightening in my own. I glanced down at her. Miki’s school uniform almost matched mine and her long black hair was tied back like my own. She had a bright pink backpack on her shoulders whilst I had a leather satchel on just one shoulder. Miki’s face was turned upwards, her usual blue eyes fixed on the shrine, her expression slightly puzzled.
‘It looks like an…owl,’ she said slowly.
‘I guess…it does,’ I replied.
We were use to seeing these Hokora -Shinto shrines- dotted along the roads, outside houses and important buildings. They were places for the Kami – spirits of nature – to visit and people to prayer and /or leave offerings. They were little one roomed ‘houses’ made of stones and or woods.
This one though, was different. It was made out of a tall single stone and had an archway at the top. Inside was a metal carving of a creature that looked like an owl but it it had long ears and a horn in between. Inside the owl was an unlit candle and around it were small coins.
‘Why, an owl, Keiko?’ my little sister asked.
I thought for a moment then replied, ‘owls are a symbol of fortune and protection. Which makes sense for travelers because they’d ask the Kami to protect them from evil spirits whilst on the road.’
‘Oh,’ Miki responded.
‘Let’s pray for a safe walk home and good luck,’ I suggested.
Miki give a single nod and a hum sound.
We put our hands together, shut our eyes and bowed before the shine before asking aloud, ‘Kami bring us protection and fortune on the journey.’
(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/02/01/thursday-photo-prompt-shrine-writephoto/ with thanks).