My goal for every New Year’s is to perform my Hatsumode at three shrines before the rise of morning sun. Personally I don’t ask for anything when I pray at these shrines, I just express gratitude for being alive and in good health to see the start of a new year, and to pay my respects for the coming year. The last of the three shrines I visited this year was right in line with the large Yasukuni Shrine and the tiny Tsukudo Shrine, it was in fact the parent shrine of that last little shrine, the hill top Tsukudohachiman Shrine (筑土八幡神社). It’s origins have been lost in time and war, but the original shrine was inaugurated here sometime between 809 AD and 823 AD, after an old man in the area claimed to have heard from the god Hachiman in this spot. In 1945 AD the shrine was completely destroyed by the US Air Force in one of the many raids of that year, only the Torii (built in 1726), the gate, remained mostly unharmed from shrapnel and fire and it is today the oldest Torii in Shinjuku ward. I didn’t get a good photo of it unfortunately.
Walking towards Iidabashi Station from Yasukuni Shrine you will encounter two more shrines on the side street, one of which is the very famous and hugely popular Tokyo Daijingu, the other one being the almost completely hidden tiny little Tsukudo Shrine, nestled inside and underneath one of the many tall office buildings in the area. It might not look like much to the world but it has a long and proud history, having been founded in June 940 A.D., almost 1075 years ago. It was moved to the present location after having been damaged in World War 2. The shrine today consists of a brand new torii gate, a main shrine building and a smaller inari shrine to the side. You’ll need a good map and a keen eye to find it!
Kanda Myojin, one of the most famous shrines in Tokyo is in the run up to celebrate its 400 year anniversary and staying with the times one of their ways are to sponsor a special series of (nearby) Akihabara inspired mangaesque gachapon figures. Themes and figures from the the shrine are sold at special locations in Tokyo (the main spot being just behind the main shrine in the direction of Akihabara station) in the form of gachapon, the plastic bubble figures you get at vending machines all over Japan (and indeed the world if I remember correctly). I found a few hung with the omikuji fortune telling slips that people tie up at shrines, especially in the beginning of the new year. A great souvenir if you find them! So far I have seen these being sold in Akihabara and Shibuya, but there are probably more spots to get them around Tokyo.
The last of the Torinoichi visit photographs for this year. It is a great tradition to watch, for both locals and tourists, with the clapping, the rhythmic chanting, the colorful and over the top kumade decorations on sale and of course the food stands selling everything from grilled fish to bottles of beer. If you missed it this year you can set your alarm clocks for the 2015 dates, starting one minute past midnight on November 5th, 17th and 29th. Enjoy!