Japanese New Year
Happy new year folks! Or as it is said in Japanese, "Akemashite, Omedetou-gozaimasu!" [あけましておめでとうございます].
And as for the other languages I speak:-
새해 복 많이 받으십시오! 祝你新年快樂！Feliz año nuevo! Bonne année!
Well OK I don't speak Spanish or French too well but interestingly enough, I was taught Spanish by a French teacher. Used to speak it well but didn't get the opportunity to use the language at all.
So, tis new years day in Japan as with previous years we do what most others do and go to the local shrine for Hatsumoude. Hatsumoude [初詣], is the first visit of the new year to a shrine where citizens flock to say a prayer for the new year.
This is our Hamaya [破魔矢] for last year. If you take the kanji, it literally means an arrow that destroys demons. Many Japanese place one at home throughout the year to ward off evil spirits and bad fortune.
The reason we have it with us today is because we are going to return it to the shrine and have them burn it for us. Many charms bought from the shine the previous year are usually returned to be burned the next year.
Today we are visiting Meguro Fudouson Ryusenji temple located in Meguro.
The temple was built in the year 808. In 1615, the temple was burned down in a fire but was restored under the Tokugawa shogunate in 1624.
The nearest stations are Musashikoyama and Nishikoyama on the Meguro line.
Here is where you hand in last years hamaya, ema or other charms and amulets for burning. There is a box on the side where you place money - put in any amount you want.
Most shrines have burning incense - standing around it you will see folks waving the fragrant smoke towards them. Its like being blessed with good luck and protection.
The prayers for the new year are usually made at the largest building in the shrine grounds where there are priests chanting throughout the day.
Inside the shrine is a huge box like object with wooden strips on the top. The box is usually placed in front of the statues of the gods. Money is thrown into the box and after two claps, you would say a prayer for the next year.
Here is where you purchase Omamori [お守り] which are charms or amulets that you carry about your person for the coming year.
And here are the types of omamori that you can purchase which are all made to order. You write down your name n address and the type of protection or luck bringing that you need for the following year. Which are:-
-Ward off calamity
-Safety for family
-Prayers are fulfilled
-Prevent my current illness from getting worse
-Save me from these rough seas
-Safety for family+Flourishing business combo pack
-Safety for family+Good health combo pack
Which would you choose?
For the first few days of the new year, shrines are generally packed until folks get back to work next week.
As you can imagine, shrines make quite a bit of money at this time of year - so much so that many shrines are competing for visitors and you can see a load of TV commercials at this time of year.
Found a CM from 1985 below.
If one of the following applies to you this year (gender and age) then you are in for a year of bad luck!
Luckily, the shrine sells charms and provides services to bless you with protection - which will cost you more money. We spent over 10,000 yen at the shrine this morning on amulets and food.
The honesty of the Japanese in general means that this form of selling works. In this case, these boxes have rolls of paper with fortunes written on them. You take one and place 100 yen in the slotted hole.
I've also seen unmanned vegetable stores where you would take a veggie and place money in a provided container.
Would/do the concept of unmanned stores work in your neck of the woods?
While some of the fortunes are good, some of them will say something like, "you will be beaten up by a horde of raging baboons and eaten by a giant snake where you will be digested over 1000 years."
If this is not your idea of good fortune, you will need to make sure the fortune is not fulfilled by tying it to this fence. As you can see, there are a load of people who are not keen on baboons or giant snakes.
Most neighborhoods have a shrine - some are big and some are small. Some of them you wont discover for years unless you look in every nook and cranny of your neighborhood.
We discovered Meguro Fudouson shrine only a few years ago after more exploration of our local area.
Apart from the Japanese, many gaijin also flock to the temples too.
In many shrines, there are gods who specialize in different areas of protection and healing. Today there was a god which helps people heal legs and back - just what I need after being diagnosed with spinal hernia in 2008.
Water at a shrine brings good fortune. Folks will take a sip and wash their hands.
In this case, the water is splashed on a statue of a god which brings even more good fortune. When making a prayer, money of any amount should be placed in the box near the god.
This small hill surrounds a well of water which is watched over by stone statues of gods and animals.
After paying respects to the gods, one usually eats at one of the stalls at the shrine.
These are Tacoyaki or fried octopus balls. Bet you didn't know octopus had balls.
Mmmmmm! Tacoyaki has flakes of katsuo on the top. When you see it for the first time it looks like its alive! The temperature from the tacoyaki causes the katsuo flakes to wave about. its like its screaming out "Nooooo! Dont eat meeeee!"
Time for some yakitori. Yakitori is literally bits of chicken on a stick but is used to describe the way of cooking. Here you can choose veggies, beef and chicken.
Some makeshift benches. Kagami saves our space for us while we order.
Very burnt! Probably not very healthy but we hardly ever eat burnt stuff. Often eating meat or veggies burnt black is said to be a cause of cancer. If we burn bits of our toast or wot not, we usually scrape it off with a knife before eating.
Bits of something or other in ice.
At this time of year, folks like to drink Amazake - sweet rice wine which is usually served hot.
Those chocolate covered bananas are back. They kinda look obscene to me but wondering if thats because I have an ecchi mind?!
Never tried it before so thought I'd give it a whirl. Basically tasted like a banana - cant really taste the white chocolate at all.
Not typical Japanese food but this stall had dried mango, tomato and other fruits.
More folks enjoying some piping hot rice wine.
Riding the bicycle back home in the afternoon. Gorgeous clear sunny day. Very cold. Bring warm coat if you are traveling to Japan at this time of year.
Many homes have new years decoration outside their door. This is our decoration.
Our Karin-chan in full new year gear outdoors.
Karin prefers it indoors where its nice n warm where she eats good food and watches new year TV which is filled with new year sale commercials.
Before I forget, you can see coverage of previous years in the following photo articles:-
-Japanese New Year 2006 (Meiji Jingu in Harajuku)
-Japanese New Year 2007 (Sensouji in Asakusa)
-Japanese New Year 2008 (Meguro Fudouson)
-Japanese New Year 2009 (Meguro Fudouson)
The Lucky Star girls get in their new year gear too.
Hope you are having a great time with your 2D or 3D loved ones and that you had a great 2009. Here's wishing you an even greater 2010!
Would also like to thank you for your continued support over the years (tears).
Before I leave you, I'd like you to add something to your new years resolution list.
Don't wait until next year again to add stuff that you want to accomplish to your new years resolution list - do that something now and accomplish it sooner.
A new years resolution is just an excuse to put it off for another year.