Hatsumode is the Japanese phrase for the first shrine visit of the new year. Most people try to make a visit to the most prominent shrine in the area within the first few days of the year. Since we live in Saitama-shi, we make our way over to Omiya to visit Hikawa Shrine. Omiya literally means great shrine, which is a reference to when Emporer Meiji declared Hikawa the greatest of all shrines in the Kanto region.
First order of business is to head to the offerings area and make our wishes for the year. But it is not wish-making in the western sense. It is more like asking for blessings and good fortune in certain aspects of one’s life.
Even on the second day of the year, crowds turn out in full force.
Buying our hama yumi from the shrine maidens. The scared arrow brings fortune and protects against evil.
Part of the hatsumode tradition is buying paper fortunes called omikuji.
Some people also write their wishes on ema, small wooden plaques that act as letters to the gods.
Daruma act as score keepers for one’s goals in life. Fill one pupil in when the goal is set, fill the other eye in when it’s accomplished.
Vendors set up an array of food and game stalls along the main path leading to the shrine.
The nearby senbei shop has some competition for now.
Today is pretty cold, so all of the grills heat is welcome warmth.
Chocolate-covered bananas with sprinkles.
A variety of sausages.
Karaage, or Japanese fried chicken.
This booth offers Pachinko-style kids game. It’s good training for arguably Japan’s most popular pastime.
Japan’s new year celebrations can be quite different from America’s party atmosphere. Not that you can’t find a New Years Eve party in Japan, but the overall tone is more akin to a family Christmas gathering.