Posted by joebrauer on Wednesday, January 1st, 2014 (Japan Standard Time)

Hatsumoude

Happy New Year in Japan with the First Shrine Visit (of 2013)

Happy New Year. Here is a little story of my first shrine visit of the year in 2013.

In Japan, people like to be the first in anything. And if it’s something they can’t be, then they like to do things in the first, highest, biggest, widest, smallest whatever. As long as it’s 一番 (ichiban), especially on the first of January, it’s enough. Well, I guess I count myself in that group of people now as well. Here is why.

A friend and I decided to go to the Meiji Shrine together for our first shrine visit of the year. I was quite happy about that, since I was afraid of huge crowds, so she gave me some comfort during the day.

We started from Harajuku at 11am. The station itself was already crowded with people wanting to go to the Meiji Shrine as well, to say their prayers and wishes. On the other side, the streets next to Harajuku Station were almost empty, and even Takeshita Street was way less crowded.

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Takeshita Street. Still busy, but less than usual.

With the Japanese people loving a peaceful surrounding, the walk towards the shrine was relaxed and without any troubles. No-one was pushing, there were no huge troutes of people trying to get threw somewhere and everyone was enjoying their stroll.

As we got closer to the main section, a security officer greeted the visitors with a friendly “明けましておめでとうございます” (akemashite omedetou gozaimasu / Happy New Year) through his megaphones. Unfortunately, I was very close and therefor very loud.

Just a few meters further down the path is the well - where you wash your hands and mouth first, before you speak to the diety.

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One of the wells, without the crowd around it in late 2012.

After that, it really became crowded, passing through the gate to the inner part of the shrine with the huge crowd standing in front of the sacred basin that became the donation box. It took us about 20-30 minutes to reach it. Some impatient worshippers were throwing the coins into the collector from a distance.

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The crowd of people that was behind us. And there were more.

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It’s best to use 5 yen or 50 yen coins as they are believed to bring good fortune.

After praying, we came across some stands where miko, the shrine maidens, were selling fortune tellings and lucky charms. We both got ourselves one of each. The fortune tellings are called Omigokoro (大御心). To get one, you pay 100¥, then shake a wooden box until a stick with a number comes out. According to the number, the miko will hand you your Omigokoro. If you draw a bad one, you would bind it to one of the trees or the specially placed ropes next to the stands. Mine wasn't bad so I kept it. Right after we bought ourselves some lucky charms. I chose the one that is supposed to let me find love or keep the one that I already have.

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Words of wisdom and the lucky charm for finding or keeping love.

After that, we went on and got to some food stands with various warm meals. Takoyaki, Yakisoba, cooked Potatoes, Yakitori and even roasted Chestnuts. Also one of the stands sold Amazake, sweet Sake, which doesn't contain alcohol and is actually a bit like a soup with bits of Sake rice in it. Very tasty and I highly recommend it after your Hatsumode. It finishes the visit nicely.

So tell us, how was your New Year’s Day?

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Joe Brauer
Race enthusiast, maid lover, butler, cosplayer and chemist. I go my own way, may it be an inconvinient as possible. But at least it's my own.
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