[H1]1st femalepriest named at Nikko Toshogu[/H1][!--// headline_end //--][!--// byline_start //--] [P class=byline]The Yomiuri Shimbun
[!--// byline_end //--][!--// article_start //--][!-- google_ad_region_start=region1 --] A 22-year-old woman has become the first female in the nearly 400-year history of Nikko Toshogu to serve as a priest of the shrine, a major tourist attraction in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture.
Yuri Kawasaki is so devoted to her calling that she even recites Shinto prayers in the bath.
Although her home in Kanuma has no direct connection with any shrines or temples, Kawasaki, says she began visiting them as a hobby.
While majoring in oral literature at Kokugakuin University, she also studied Japanese art and Shinto, gaining her priesthood qualification while still in further education.
"I hope to make the most of my study of Japanese art and culture in my service as a priest," Kawasaki said.
She said she had wavered between working at art galleries or museums, or serving at temples or shrines.
Eventually she plumped for a position as a priest at the Nikko Toshogu shrine because of its outstanding arts and crafts.
She started out working as a librarian classifying ancient documents and got involved with office work at the federation of about 500 Toshogu shrines nationwide.
When she realized she would be the first female priest of such a venerable shrine, she was concerned about whether she would be able to perform her duties correctly.
A priest performs many types of work, including the offering and recital of prayers and the offering of food and drink to the gods.
Kawasaki said she was having a particularly difficult time reciting the prayers with their unique rhythms, and that she practices in her bath at home--a practice her family find "curious."
"Kawasaki has a range of qualifications and we have high hopes for her service," a member of the Nikko Toshogu general affairs department said.
[DIV class=date-def]([!--// date_start //--]Aug. 9, 2008[!--// date_end //--])
[DIV class=date-def][A href="http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/features/culture/20080809TDY15004.htm"]http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/features/culture/20080809TDY15004.htm[/A][/DIV][!-- google_ad_region_end=region1 --][!--// article_end //--]