New Year’s Eve
If you have ever experienced a long night out on a biting cold Japanese New Year’s Eve, and the tradition of Hatsumode – you might want to miss this post. If not, please read on. If you want to put some culture or tradition in your new year’s celebrations nothing beats going shrine hopping in central Tokyo! The subway trains run all night and you can go from one famous shrine to the next to ring in the new year. If your tastes run a little bit more buddhist, you can also try to be one of the few people to take part in the ringing of the temple bell ceremony: a lot of people line up, few are allowed in. Give the biggest shrine in Tokyo a miss – the Meiji Jingu is madly packed with people! I spent three hours in a freezing line one year and all I had to show for it was bruises where I was hit by a shower of coins from people desperate to say their prayers, throw in their cash and run away to the nearest warm place! You could try Yasukuni shrine, try the festival foods, drink the hot sweet sake, check out the amazingly cold and brave scouts guarding the fires or you could head to Sensoji in Asakusa to see the burning of the ritual items, the processions or get one of their gorgeous shuin for your shuincho. You could also pick up one of the votive plates of the zodiac animal of the new year tied to a holy arrow or any other of the many good luck charms or fortune telling slips. Here’s a collection of photos from various places and years, use the tags to navigate and find more of my new year’s related posts!
Most people visit one shrine within a week after new year’s. More serious people go out and pay their respect at a shrine on the first night of the new year. Even more serious? Then make it three shrines. But make sure to find which shrine is the one dedicated to your house, you might be surprised to find that the one you should visit most of all is not the one closest to you! Ask your landlord if uncertain. I wish you a happy new year and a happy Hatsumode (people don’t really say Happy Hatsumode, it is just something I just invented)!