Eat. Pray. Race?
Amidst all the hubbub that springs forth when the F1 teams and fans roll into Suzuka every year for the Japanese Grand Prix, there’s a small and very fortuitously named Shinto shrine nearby that reckons it’s got the inside running on influencing the race result.
‘Ema’ (絵馬) are small wooden prayer plaques sold at Shinto shrines. Visitors write their wishes on them and hang them up at the shine in the hope that the gods will grant their prayers. In a country where superstition and religion are deeply intertwined, it’s no surprise that you can pray for practically everything, including for your favourite F1 driver to succeed.
So every year when it’s race week, Katsuhayahi Shrine in Shiroko (勝速日神社, 白子) sells a special racing ema designed by the local high school students. Why wouldn’t it, given that the Chinese characters in the shrine’s name literally mean victory (勝), speed (速) and the rising sun (日).
With a name like that, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try helping out my fellow countryman in the race. Team Red Bull’s number two driver for 2013 is Mark Webber, an Australian from Queanbeyan who’s been having yet another torrid season marred by misfortune – misfortune that I was hoping could be turned around with a little divine intervention. So I made sure to dash up to Shiroko from Tsu early on race morning to make my offering before the 11am ’ema writing deadline’. The result? Webber had a great race starting from poll before finishing in second place. That’s 500 yen well spent I reckon.