This year too I made sure to visit the famous Yasukuni Shrine on the night of New Year’s eve. It was on last on my list of shrines to visit (the list was unusually long this year) and so things had quieted down considerably by the time I got there at around two-three in the morning. There were still thousands of people around and the line to the shrine altar was an hour long even at this time of night. The most photogenic aspect of New Year’s at Yasukuni was as usual the Scouts standing honor guard at several places around the shrine. How they manage not to kill themselves by pneumonia I have no idea! The fire is warm but at the distance where they stand it is barely perceptible. The new ema, showing the horse that symbolizes this year, was up, and there was a long line to buy the holy shinto arrows, good luck charms and fortune telling slips. Hatsumode is the name of the first visit to a shrine at New Years, and people do it individually, with their family or even with the office as a large group of workers visit the local shrine on behalf of their company or corporation.