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)!
Last month as I was showing a foreign friend around Tokyo – first visit – we saw this gorgeous couple at their wedding ceremony in Tokyo’s main Meiji Jingu shrine. I know I have posted wedding ceremonies many times before but I just can’t help myself! The only ones who had the benefit of the parasol was the couple themselves, the others had to do without anything to shield them from the fierce sun that beautiful afternoon, hence their shut eyes!
The coming of age day, the Seijin no hi, is one of the best public holidays in Japan. Even though very few foreigners are in a position to participate there is nothing better than just walking around Tokyo on the day (always a Monday) and see all the gorgeous young people dressed up for their big day. Where I’m from and I guess it is the same in many other western countries, coming of age day is mostly alcohol related. Although early January is very cold, there are few better days to spend an entire day walking around! The kimono is also a surprisingly warm garment, on the few occasions I have worn it I have never been cold. Enjoy!
Yesterday was the big Coming of Age Day, the “seijin no hi” (成人の日) which is a public holiday in Japan. It is dedicated to celebrate all the people who will be 20 years old this year and this is one of the most important highlights in any Japanese persons life. Usually cities and town have big ceremonies where they invite young people to take part of inspirational speeches and various ceremonies. It is also a good opportunity for young people to get back together with friends from school that they might not have seen for a year or so after leaving for college. People generally dress up and most people wear the kimono although a lot of men and some women prefer wearing suits or something more personalized. You might remember the tons of other posts I have done on this subject! I didn’t have much time this year so I just took a walk through Harajuku and Shibuya, passing the big Meiji Shrine and getting a few snap shots of the people there. This year it was quite crowded for some reason, but fewer celebrants than usual. Here’s one beauty carefully dedicating a ema plate to the shrine. I also found a ema with some funny wishes, the girl, Haruna, who wrote this (not the one I took a photo of!) hopes that she will become a hairdresser and cut everyone’s hair! She also wants to be bright as a light bulb and she wishes good luck in her studies, particularly her English studies. Good luck Haruna!