Discerning fans had figured out that Washinomiya Shrine is regularly featured in "Lucky Star," a wildly popular animated comic that aired as a television series last year. Like the fans of other popular comics, Lucky Star's most ardent followers -- often men in their 20s and 30s -- demonstrate their commitment to the show by engaging in "costume play," or "cosplay," the popular pastime of dressing up as various characters.
Lucky Star's main characters are all female. "For us, this is a holy site," declared a young man named Shigeki Ito, strolling through the shrine one recent weekend in a wig of blue tresses, a red-and-white schoolgirl uniform and dark knee socks. The 20-something Tokyo office worker said dressing up as Konata, Lucky Star's easygoing main character, is "part of the experience." Accompanying him as Miyuki was friend Takashi Tanno, his pink wig slightly askew.