How Japan's ancient epidemic spread two national religions in the country

Some of these forests, or even individual trees, are so significant that they are defined as being sacred.
Some of these forests, or even individual trees, are so significant that they are defined as being sacred.PHOTO: RONAN O'CONNELL

NARA, JAPAN - They lurched through Japanese towns like zombies - blinded, disfigured and covered in sores. All around these wretched folk, people fled, unaware they could not outrun the cause of this mayhem nearly 1,300 years ago.

At the time, the Japanese people had won many military battles against foreign forces. Now, however, they had been blindsided by a new and invisible foe that swiftly killed a third of the population.

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