This year I visited the famous Kanda Myojin Shrine near Akhibara for hatsumode – the first visit to a shrine of the year – pretty early in the day. Lots of people and the obligatory new year’s lion dance. I have seen dozens of lion dancers throughout my years living in Tokyo but the dancers of this troupe is by far the best so far. The most endearing part of this tradition is when they hold up the little kids to have their heads “bitten” by the lions, which is supposed to make for strong healthy children. The bravest ones go through it with a smile but the smaller kids often cry fiercely at the prospect, obviously these kids get the biggest cheers of approval from the sympathetic audience.
This year’s New Years was spent at Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo. We were ushering in the year of the Sheep according to the zodiac, in addition to the wester year 2015 or the 27th Year of the reign of Emperor Heisei or the year 2675 according to the old Japanese Imperial reckoning. As usual there was plenty of people, lost of food stands and as always the different scout groups stood at attention around the fires. Hatsumode is the traditional first visit to a shrine in the new year and most people perform it within a few days of January first, if not at midnight itself!
My visit last Friday on the last half hour of the last day of this years Hagoita market gave me a few more photos I would like to share. These hagoita they sell are just so lovely, and all hand assembled (so no two should be perfectly identical) by different traditional merchants. Some day I would like to live in such a way that having one of these on my home shrine would be completely natural.
Sensoji temple is one of (if not the most) most popular tourists attractions in Japan and as such it is constantly crowded with huge crowds of people. I actually prefer to visit late, as late as possible to see the gorgeously lit up temple grounds with fewer people to distract me. On this cold December evening it was around nine in the evening but still plenty of people around!