An auspicious white boar recently attracted the attention of visitors at Goou Jinja shrine in Kyoto. The Shinto shrine hopes the animal will bring people comfort and help them move forward after the year started with a powerful earthquake that struck the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture.

An auspicious white boar at Goou Jinja shrine in Kyoto's Kamigyo Ward.

The shrine's lore has it that Wake no Kiyomaro, a figure in 8th-century Japan and its enshrined deity, was protected by 300 boars when he was banished from the ancient capital to the southwestern island of Kyushu. His leg injuries are also said to have healed because of his encounter with them.

Goou Jinja thus reveres boars as spiritual beings, and within its grounds sit a pair of boar statues instead of komainu, or statues of lion-like creatures commonly seen in Shinto shrines.

The white boar was born at Takara Hachimangu shrine in Oita Prefecture in May 2009 to a boar that was also white, likely because of a gene mutation. She was subsequently given to Goou Jinja because of the shrine's deep association with boars. Her name, Karin, comes from a large tree on the Kyoto shrine's premises.

Karin has been fed and trained by Kozo Saito, the 76-year-old owner of a mobile zoo in Shizuoka Prefecture, and is brought to the Kyoto shrine annually for New Year's. The 14-year-old mammal is 1.1 meters long and weighs 41 kilograms. While being quite old for a boar, she has a healthy appetite and is wholesome, according to Saito.

As the boar was let out of its cage on Jan. 4 to roam around the Goou Jinja grounds, visitors who happened to be there appeared surprised and snapped photos of the animal. Because the boar only came out at certain times throughout the day, it was difficult for visitors to catch a glimpse of her.

A recent post by the shrine about the white boar on X, formerly Twitter, has garnered over 70,000 impressions and 2,000 likes. "A white boar is quite rare. While there's been terrible news around us, I hope people can feel a tiny bit brighter," Saito said.

Takahiro Hongo, the shrine's chief priest, says visitors like the boar, seeing it as an auspicious sign. "Though we may all feel depressed, I hope the boar can warm your heart and get you to move forward like boars."

The Kyoto Shimbun

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