Tokyobling's Blog

Nogi Shrine Hatsumode

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Places by tokyobling on January 28, 2011

Earlier this month I promised to post some more photos from one of my favorite Japanese traditions, the Hatsumode, which basically means “the first visit to pay your respects at a shrine in a new year”. This year, as always, I tried to come up with a theme for my New Year’s Eve midnight run. Traditionally people in Japan will visit their local shrine and be done with it, hurry home to their waiting kotatsu, but some more dedicated people will make a point of visiting three shrines. So this year, I visited all the “brown” shrines in Tokyo that I could think of: Yasukuni, Nogi, Togo and Meiji. There might be more but I couldn’t think of any. It was a freezing cold winter night and I walked to and from most of these places, so I spent about 6 hours outside that night. No wonder I caught a major cold on New Year’s Day!

This is Nogi shrine, which is the shrine dedicated to the great Japanese war hero, Count Nogi, who did much work for public health in Taiwan as well as developing military hospitals in Japan. His life and death are so remarkable that he remains highly respected today. Despite all his good deeds, he is most known for the disastrous siege of Port Arthur (present day Lushunkou in China) in the Russian-Japanese war of 1905, which prompted his traditional suicide in 1912. There is a rather good (if stale) movie about Nogi and the siege, called 二百三高地 (Hill 203) in Japanese. Made back in 1981, when they still knew how to make movies that weren’t just commercial vehicles for adolescent pop stars. It’s probably almost impossible to find outside of Japan, but if you have friends here it’s well worth petitioning for a copy if you are into history, Japan, war movies or just well made epic tales.

This shrine is one of the most well kept shrines in Japan and visiting it will give you a good view of the contrast between a meticulously maintained city shrine and the more common local country shrines in the rest of the country.

It was dark and cold and about 3 in the morning, so it was difficult to find either energy or light to take good photos, but I managed a few of the traditional ema, the votive plates, as well as a photo of one of the miko working in the shrines. Traditionally, the miko had to be recruited from only the finest families and they all had to be virgins. I don’t know how or if they maintain that rule today. I will post more photos from the other shrine I visited later. Enjoy!

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4 Responses

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  1. Romain said, on January 28, 2011 at 11:32 am


    Nice pictures always a pleasure. Can you explain me what are those little brown flasks ?
    And does the four 4 squares are the Kamon of this temple?

    Must be really nice even with the cold 🙂


    • tokyobling said, on January 31, 2011 at 12:38 am

      Hi! The little flasks are hollowed out gourds, decorated with the shrine’s symbol. I haven’t seen these at any shrines before so I don’t know exactly what their meaning is. The four squares symbol is indeed the kamon of this shrine, and I belive, the line of Count Nogi himself. It’s funny, but most Japanese people don’t know their own kamon.


  2. Timi said, on January 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    This post has such a nice feeling to it:)I love them.
    What did the girls sell at the last picture?And I join in about the question of the flasks too!
    Thanks for the post!


    • tokyobling said, on January 31, 2011 at 12:39 am

      Thanks Timi! The girls, the miko, sell all sorts of luck charms, prayer books, trinkets, post cards, souvenirs and fortune telling slips. Most Japanese draw their fortune slips at these shrines in the beginning of every year!


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