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TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Clad in suits, thousands of employees and executives flooded a Tokyo shrine dedicated to commerce on Monday, praying to the god to keep their businesses afloat in a new year with a grim economic outlook.
Businessmen and women waited patiently in the cold on the first working day of 2009 to approach the altar of the Kanda Myojin shrine, established some 1,300 years ago and dedicated to commerce god Ebisu-Sama
"Last year was a really tough year for real estate, and many companies have disappeared. But we're determined to survive," said Toshikatsu Takehara, a 34-year-old real estate sales manager who was praying at the shrine.
Worshippers at the shrine clapped their hands on reaching the altar, closed their eyes and bowed their heads to pray, as the jingle of coins thrown into the donation box filled the air.
The shrine's donation box, filled with 1 yen (1 cent) coins, as opposed to generous 1,000-yen ($10) or 10,000-yen bills often seen in the past, seemed to reflect the sentiment of many employees and their companies, which are tightening their belts in response to the severe economic climate.
"Just like all our business clients who are feeling the pinch, we can't spend as lavishly as we used to," said Sachiko Ishii, 34, a secretary at a building management firm.
The economic outlook in export-reliant Japan is gloomy, where industrial output fell at a record pace in November and the job market is shrinking, threatening to crush consumption and depress prices.
Writing by Yoko Kubota, editing by Miral Fahmy