New role shifts focus from the literal skies to the figurative heavens.

A lot of businesses are hurting these days, but the effects of the coronavirus pandemic have hit travel providers particularly hard. In addition to Japan being almost closed to international tourism, many residents are also choosing to cancel or postpone their domestic travel plans.

That’s left Japan Airlines with a surplus of staff members to handle drastically reduced workloads, leading the company to look for ways to temporarily reassign employees to other roles. As a result, soon a group of JAL employees from Fukuoka Airport will instead be showing up for work as miko, Shinto shrine maidens.

As shown in the video above, on Monday a number of JAL Fukuoka ground staff underwent training at Munakata Taisha shrine, located in the town of Munakata, Fukuoka Prefecture. While working as a shrine maiden doesn’t require the taking of long-term vows in the manner of a Christian nun, the job does require knowledge of specialized vocabulary and etiquette.

▼ Munakata Taisha

Japanese people traditionally visit their local shrine or temple at the start of the new year to pray for health and prosperity in the months to come. Many also purchase auspicious objects and home decorations such as omamori, hamaya, and fukusasa (good luck charms shaped like a cloth pouch, arrow, and bamboo branch, respectively). Each of these are meant to be handled and passed to worshippers in a particular manner, which was also covered during the miko training session.

▼ Hamaya

While it’s unlikely the newly minted miko expected to have this sort of work assignment when they started working for Japan’s largest airline, there is some overlap in that both roles are focused on providing courteous hospitality, and both JAL and Munakata Taisha say they look forward to the potential synergy and opportunity to learn from one another. The arrangement also serves as an example of an often overlooked aspect of Japanese work culture in which companies generally try to avoid laying off employees simply because the economy is slumping, and instead try to figure out some way for them to stay on the payroll.

The JAL miko will be working at the shrine from January 1 to 11.

Source: Yahoo! Japan News/ TNC TV Nishi Nihon via Otakomu, Nishi Nippon Shimbun
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Wikipedia/そらみみ, Wikipedia/Tomomarusan
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