Ghost statue near Sasebo popular for those seeking good luck, end to COVID-19

Photo by Tomoko Tanaka
Photo by Tomoko Tanaka

Ghost statue near Sasebo popular for those seeking good luck, end to COVID-19

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Okinawa

In times of trouble or in search of good luck, some turn to religion, or a lucky rabbit’s foot, maybe a pair of lucky socks. In Kyushu, some are turning to a friendly ghost with a mermaid-like body for help with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Japan, Amabie, is an imaginary ghost of local folklore said to dwell below the waters just off the Kyushu coast and it is experiencing a spike in popularity.

According to legend, Amabie has a mermaid-like body with a bill, long hair and three or more legs. It returns to land to signal the start of the harvest or to warn of forthcoming epidemics and, sometimes, the ghost lights up the sea from below just for fun. According to locals, the ghost is known for wiping out epidemics, misfortune and bringing good luck to those who pray to it.

As COVID-19 numbers started to spread across the nation, a new statue of Amabie in Isahaya City, about a 1.5-hour drive from Sasebo Naval Base, became a place with many visitors praying for the end of the pandemic.

This 3.7-foot tall wooden statue is one of the largest in the nation of the friendly sea ghost and you’ll find it at the Isahaya Jinja Shinto shrine. It was dedicated in May of this year after a local chain-saw artist donated the sculpture.

On a visit in late June, Tomoko Tanaka of Stars and Stripes’ Sasebo district office said the statue’s surface was already smooth from visitors touching it for good luck.

For now, unfortunately, visits to this statue and surrounding areas remain off-limits but know that there are many local residents visiting Amabie in hopes that COVID-19 and the consequences of it will soon be over.

Isahaya Shrine
Location: 1-12 Ubecho, Isahaya City, Nagasaki Pref.
URL: (Japanese)
Tel: 0957-22-2073

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