Japanese Shrines full of those praying for good fortune as working year starts

Thousands of Japanese packed a Tokyo shrine on Tuesday, the first working day of 2011, to pray for better luck and a rebound in the lagging economy just days after ushering in the Year of the Rabbit.

By midday, some 70,000 people had visited Tokyo’s Kanda Myoujin shrine, dedicated to several gods including the god of good fortune, to bow their heads and wish for a more prosperous year.

"Gloomy news is all we hear around us these days, so I wished that this year we’d get some bright and joyful news for a change," said 46-year-old Yoshiko Saeki.

Japan’s economy is recovering at a sluggish pace from a deep recession. Though a government report last month showed growth of a revised 1.1 percent in July-September from the previous quarter, beating estimates, sentiment remains bleak.

Analysts polled by Reuters expect the economy to shrink 0.1 percent in the following quarter as exports slow and auto output slumps after the expiry of government incentives for the purchase of low-emission cars.

"I wished for an economic rebound from the bottom up so that my business is also positively affected," said Shinya Watanabe, a 24-year-old businessman who has been in his current job for just two years.

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