Today I finished 353rd out of 515 competitors in the Ise Shima / Satoumi Triathlon 伊勢志摩・里海トライアスロン. It was a rainy day, but the residents of Hamajima 浜島 turned out to cheer for us, the volunteers made sure everything went off without a hitch, and the location was beautiful. This is in the area where they will be holding the G7 Summit meeting next year.
The purple object in the photo above is an omamori お守り, or protective talisman. It is a small purple pouch that shows someone riding a bike and with the phrase “traffic safety talisman” 交通安全守 written in gold letters. This is the first talisman I’ve seen for cyclists, and it’s the first time I have ever seen them handed out at a sporting event.
On the back it says the name of the Shintō shrine issuing the talisman — in this case, Anori Shrine 安乗神社. The shrine in its current form dates to the end of the Meiji Period 明治時代 (1868–1912), when eleven local shrines were combined into a single one. Among those eleven is one dedicated to Hachiman, and it existed at least as early as the sixteenth century. It appears, for example, in an anecdote about a warrior from the region (Kuki Yoshitaka 九鬼嘉隆) who prayed there for the deity to send favorable winds that would help him launch his fleet.
My bike ride was nothing so daring as Yoshitaka’s military exploits, but as a historian of Japan’s sixteenth century, I was happy to be carrying around a talisman from a shrine with roots in the period.
I normally don’t open the pouches for talismans, but this time it was thoroughly soaked by the rain and I am drying it out. The name of the shrine is written on the paper, and inside the paper (not shown in the photo) is the word shinji 神璽, which could be translated here as the “god’s seal.”
In addition to providing us with this talisman, the priest from the shrine purified (harai 祓い) all of the competitors before the event began. I wonder if they do this at other triathlons as well. My guess is that they take Shintō pretty seriously here, and it is uncommon to see it elsewhere.
In the 1.5km swim I was in 8th place, but that was the high point of my three hour race, and then I spent the rest of the triathlon watching people pass me. In the 40km bike ride I fell to 165th place after getting passed by 148 people (9 passed me in the transition area). In the 10km run I saw 181 people go by (7 passed me in the transition area). Last year, I competed in the 2014 Sunrise Iwata Triathlon サンライズイワタ2014in竜洋大会 with roughly the same times. In fact, I was surprised to see that in the 10km run I was 22 seconds slower this year. All of that running this year doesn’t seem to have affected my speed, though I definitely feel a lot less sore this time.
The Circle-KK サークル・ケーケー Team
(Photo Credit: En Yamamoto)
If you ever have an opportunity to participate in a triathlon in Japan, I highly recommend Ise Shima / Satoumi Triathlon 伊勢志摩・里海トライアスロン in Hamajima 浜島!