Tokyobling's Blog

Hatsumode at Kanda Myojin

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on January 26, 2015

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.

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Anime Ema at Kanda Myojin Shrine

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Places by tokyobling on January 23, 2015

I am still not sure when the tradition of self-decorated anime styled ema started over at the famous Kanda Myojin Shrine near Tokyo’s anime heart – Akihabara. Even then it is one of my favorite things to do in the new to visit the shrine and have a look at this year’s new ema. I visit quite early in the new year and since then I am sure there have been many additions, but these are some of the better ones I found. Normally you buy one of the plain ema at the shrine and write your prayer for the coming year, but some people take the extra step of decorating their own ema. All of these votive plates will eventually be consumed in a ritual fire that will help cleanse the prayers and the people offering them. You can see last year’s post on the same subject over here.

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More Misogigamankai at Kanda Shrine

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on January 14, 2014

More photos from the Endurance/purification ceremony at Tokyo’s Kanda Shrine (Kanda Myojin) the other day. Although I am usually all for immersing myself in my adopted culture this is one habit that I will refrain from. Most of the participants where shaking as they stood waiting for their turn and even the leader of the group, who spent over half an hour standing in the ice water while keeping an eye on the bathers must have been suffering greatly. The funniest incident of the day was at the end, after the one hour long ordeal when the obligatory group photos was to be taken. Everyone lined up smartly, with the new 20 year olds at the front, and as usual the news media photographers where fiddling with their equipment. It didn’t take many seconds for one of the girls to shout “just get on with it!” to the photographers. Much laughter both in the crowd and among the participants! I can understand her as by that point I was almost frozen solid myself, despite many layers of warm dry clothes.

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Misogigamankai – Purification at Kanda Shrine

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on January 13, 2014

Each year on the 11th of January a ceremony called the Misogigamankai (寒中禊がまん会) takes place in some shrines in the colder parts of Japan. It is a shinto ceremony to purify the minds and bodies of the people brave enough to take part who becomes representatives of their country during the ceremony. The purification ceremony is meant to ward of natural disasters and to show the endurance of the people and the land together. In Tokyo one of the very few shrines to have this ceremony is the Kanda Myojin in Tokyo’s Sotokanda district, just between Akihabara and Ochanomizu stations. This year about 48 men and women from 19 to 54 took part in the ceremony which was one hour long in the clear, bitingly cold and windy Tokyo winter.

The participants start by gathering in front of the shrine where they chant purification prayers together with the priest, as opposed to normally where you just listen to the priest. Wearing as little clothes as possible they then run one lap around the shrine while chanting before gathering in front of the cold spring water where a tent has been set up to keep them out of the sun. There they sing before lining up and take turn plunging themselves into the cold water, which by the way has large chunks of ice in it. All participants do two rounds into the water and some opt for a third. The whole ceremony is over after an hour and I can only imagine the pain they must feel!

There were dozens of photographers, lots of media and many people gathered so it was really difficult to get good photos of the event but I did my best with the little space I had between the onlookers and the ceremony. I will post more photos and information about the ceremony later this week!

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