Learning the secret of business success
KANDA Myojin shrine is constantly visited by business people praying for their companies' success. The deity enshrined there is believed to be a guardian of Tokyo's business districts, including Otemachi and Nihonbashi. It is also known as the main tutelary deity for the town of Edo, the predecessor of today's Tokyo. Merchants have long felt close to the shrine and still do today, hoping to make their dreams come true. It was flooded with people during the recent New Year's period, people who came to pray for economic recovery. But the god of business might be deeply puzzled by a new type of worshiper who has recently appeared. Kanda Myojin sits close to the Akihabara district, known as the "hobby capital" for pop culture geeks around the world, making it a holy site for subculture fans as well. In the precincts of the shrine, there are rows and rows of ema wooden plates used to make wishes that feature large illustrations of beautiful female anime characters.
Among subculture geeks, these colorful boards are known as "ita-ema," or painful plates, because they find them a "painfully" colorful sight. Some young people use these ema to pray that their favorite works will be a big hit. The shrine also attracts many foreign tourists. Japan has been surpassed by China in terms of gross domestic product, but I can understand why if I think that Japan's key sales point is now its culture. This year marks the 400th anniversary of Kanda Myojin's relocation to its current spot. The shrine has a history of incorporating modern technologies and trends to keep up with the times. For example, Kanda Myojin was the first Shinto shrine to incorporate steel frames and steel-reinforced concrete structures into its main building. "The shrine is for people in the center of the city, so we haven't regarded new things as heretical," said Yoshihiko Shimizu, 55, a deputy chief priest at the shrine. "We've always coexisted and prospered together with them." His words convinced me that the contemporary pop culture favored by geeks fits into the shrine precincts, where traditions flourish, without any sense of discomfort. Orthodox and heretical things exist in fusion - a way of thinking that is also essential in business management. I was reminded of Sharp Corp., which has spiraled into a managerial crisis.