Akihabara-adjacent Kanda Shrine is always ready to try new things while keeping the old ones too.

Tokyo’s Kanda Myojin, also known as Kanda Shrine, is a fascinating study in contrasts. On the one hand, it’s Tokyo’s most historically significant Shinto shrine, having occupied its present location in the city since 1616, more than 300 years before Tokyo’s more famous-with-tourists Meiji Shrine was built. On the other hand, Kanda Myojin is located right next to Akihabara, the neighborhood that’s become Japan’s largest gathering point for technology, anime, and video game fans and companies.

Kanda Myojin embraces this mix of modern and traditional elements, having hosted collaborations with Studio Ghibli, Hololive, and PlayStation, to name just a few. This week, though, it took an unprecedented step by welcoming a pack of Roombas to the shrine for its annual susuosame ceremony.

▼ Roombas hard at work alongside the Kanda Myojin priests

Instead of “spring cleaning,” families in Japan customarily do their major home cleaning projects at the end of December, both for a fresh start to the new year and also so that they can maximize their relaxing time during the first few days of January, when schools and most offices are closed for vacation. Shrines and temples, though, get a little earlier start on cleaning, in mid-December, in ceremonies called susuharai (“soot removing”) or, in Kanda Myojin’s case, susuosame (“soot collecting”).

Ordinarily, the cleaning work is carried out by the priests and miko (shrine maidens). For this year’s susuosame, though, which took place on Tuesday, Kanda Myojin’s priests and miko were joined by a group of Roombas. After both humans and machines attended a ceremony hold in the shrine’s main hall, they set about spruing the place up, dividing the work so that priests and mikos swept off the lighting and other overhead fixtures, while 10 Roombas scooted around sucking up the dirt and dust that fell to the floor. An 11th Roomba was deployed on the kaguraden, a wooden stage used for ceremonial dances and musical performances.

▼ The Japanese offices of Roomba manufacturer iRobot are located in Akihabara, less than a 10-minute drive from Kanda Myojin.

Despite their lack of previous susuosame experience, the Roombas performed admirably. “They were a big help, and it was surprising to see how clean the floors were after they were done,” said a representative for the shrine. “They’re cute and heartwarming too. Traditions are to be preserved, but you could also say hat new things will then become new traditions. I think the gods are happy seeing this.”

So once again, Kanda Myojin has managed to combine the old and the new with aplomb. Just remember, though, that no matter how hard they work, you shouldn’t try to reward your Roombas with a glass of amazake from Kanda’s samurai vengeance-created cafe.

Source: Twitter/@chiyoda_city via Hamster Sokuho, NHK News Web
Featured image: Twitter/@chiyoda_city
Top image: Wikipedia/Kakidai

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