Japanese workers pray for prosperity on their first day back to work in 2023

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Jan. 4 (UPI) — Many Japanese businesspeople returned to work for the first time in 2023 on Wednesday with some making the pilgrimage to Tokyo’s oldest shrines for their annual prayer for prosperity in the coming year.

Some attended the Kanda Myojin Shrine wearing business suits as they offered prayers. The shrine pays homage to the god of fortune and receives hordes of visitors this time every year. Shrine officials said the number of visitors this year appears to be back to pre-pandemic levels.

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In October, the Japanese yen weakened to its lowest point since August 1990 against the U.S. dollar to 150, sparking fear among lawmakers. As of Wednesday, the yen stood at 131.72 against the dollar.

At the time, the Bank of Japan started buying bonds on an emergency basis, offering $666.98 million in government bonds with maturities of 10-20 years and another tranche worth $670 million yen with maturities of 5-10 years.

COVID-19 continued to impact the Japanese economy, with daily cases rising to around 90,000 on Wednesday. Japan has announced entry restrictions for Chinese residents entering their country because of the dramatic rise of cases there.

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“Everyone is exhausted from working for about three years on coronavirus measures on top of our usual work,” said an official from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

“I hope it will be a year where we can focus on medium- to long-term policies like health care, pensions and the declining birthrate.”

Japan will host the G7 Summit in Hiroshima in May with a focus on nuclear disarmament and high inflation as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine.