Japan: Police Arrest Man for Breaking into Shrine with Putin Curse Doll

Police in the Japanese town of Matsudo arrested a 72-year-old man on Wednesday for allegedly attempting to curse Russian leader Vladimir Putin by nailing a straw doll bearing a photo of Putin’s face to a sacred Shinto shrine tree and including a note inside the doll’s breast wishing death to the leader, Kyodo News reported.

The Matsudo-Higashi Police Station announced on June 15 that its officers arrested Mitsunobu Hino, 72, on suspicion of “breaking and entering and damaging property” at the local Mikazuki Shrine at approximately 2:10 p.m. on May 19. Security camera footage captured the man as he trespassed onto the shrine’s grounds. He is believed to have created “4-centimeter-deep holes” in a sacred “shinboku” tree so that he could affix his straw doll to the shrine.

“The face of the doll had what looked like a photo of Putin’s face attached with the kanji character for bad luck written on its forehead. Hammering a nail into a straw doll is a traditional form of placing a curse on the individual the doll represents, akin to voodoo dolls,” Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper noted on Thursday.

“The police have confirmed similar Putin straw dolls at more than 10 shrines in the eastern Japan city since May, and said there is a strong chance the perpetrator is the same due to resemblances in the dolls’ sizes and the handwriting on the accompanying notes,” Kyodo News observed on Wednesday.

Matsudo’s Mikazuki Shrine was established more than 800 years ago as a place of worship for the Shinto faith.

“It’s unthinkable that someone would nail down something like this in a place where people come to pray for good health,” Nobuo Shibuya, an 81-year-old lay representative of Mikazuki Shrine, told Kyodo News on June 15.

Shintoism is an ancient and native Japanese religion that is one of the country’s most widely practiced faiths today. Shrine worship is a hallmark of the Shinto religion. The BBC details this aspect of Shinto, writing:

There is no special day of the week for worship in Shinto — people visit shrines for festivals, for personal spiritual reasons, or to put a particular request to the kami (this might be for good luck in an exam, or protection of a family member, and so on).

Worship takes place in shrines built with great understanding of the natural world. The contrast between the human ritual and the natural world underlines the way in which Shinto constructs and reflects human empathy for the universe.

The journey that the worshipper makes through the shrine to the sanctuary where the ritual takes place forms part of the worship, and helps the worshipper to move spiritually from the everyday world to a place of holiness and purity.

Mitsunobu Hino seemingly put forth a negative personal request to a Shinto kami, or spirit, by nailing his Putin doll to the Mikazuki Shrine tree.

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