Breaking up is hard, so shrine offers help
KYOTO, Japan (Reuters) - Breaking up is hard to do, so visitors to Kyoto, Japan's ancient capital, seek divine intervention to lose that not-so-special someone.
At the 800-year-old Yasui Konpiragu Shrine, some 40,000 visitors a year -- mainly women -- crawl into a wish tunnel, pray and make offerings in "enkiri" rites aimed at cutting the knot.
Not on the list of cultural sites for spouses during the Asian Development Bank's 40th anniversary meeting this weekend, Yasui is less famous than other Kyoto landmarks but no less important, say pilgrims.
Hajime Torii, a priest at the shrine run by his family for generations, says special prayers offering consolation to visitors with serious domestic issues go for 6,000 yen ($50).
Yasui, which also offers match-making services, caters mainly to those trying to kiss off someone or rid themselves of a problem.
Torii says most visitors from around the country want to break free.
"About 70 percent of visitors are women. We have been known for a long time for "enkiri" services, which even in Japan are a bit unusual," Torii said.
"Some visitors just want to break up as soon as possible, while occasionally it's parents looking to pray for a child in a bad relationship."
Japan's divorce rate has more than doubled since 1960 with the number exceeding 260,000 in 2005, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
A growing number of retiree couples are finding life together intolerable, sending longer-term marriage break up rates spiking.
Yasui, dating back to Japan's medieval Kamakura Era, is not old world when it comes to courting patrons, offering on-line services at www.yasui-konpiragu.or.jp.