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aga Taisha Shrine in Taga-cho, Shiga Prefecture, has begun full-scale preparations of good luck charms for the coming New Year. Shrine maidens, monks and other shrine office staff are pressed for time in their preparation for the New Year celebrations.

Preparation of the lucky charms started on December 1st, and a total of about 40 members have been working in shifts to make them. The usual number of visitors to the shrine during just the first three days of the year is said to be approximately 500,000, the highest in Shiga Prefecture.

Shrine maidens tied votive pictorial plaques called "Ema," depicting figures of the rat, which is the Oriental zodiac sign for next year, to "Kaburaya" and "Hamaya" arrows for expelling evil spirits. The preparations will continue until about December 28th so that roughly 5,000 Kaburaya arrows and 9,000 Hamaya arrows will be ready with other good luck charms such as rakes and treasure ships.

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