My wife Yoko and I really love visiting temples and shrines and we make quite a pilgrimage out of Hatsumode every year. For those of you new to the word, Hatsumode refers to the Japanese custom of visiting your favorite Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine to pay respects to the appropriate gods and pray for success in the new year.
We usually do the New Year countdown at Yasaka jinja in Kyoto Gion, a place where tens of thousands gather at this time. It really has a wonderful atmosphere from around Dec 30th until Jan 5th or so, but New Year’s Eve is really something. This year we also went to Ikuta-jinja in Kobe and here as well a great many people come to take part a variety of rituals and customs pertaining to Hatsumode. It’s mind-boggling to see all the different things going on and the hundreds of food stalls parked everywhere inside and outside the shrine complex attract line-ups like you’ve never seen. It’s all very atmospheric and sometimes, depending on the ritual or service, surprisingly expensive!
The picture shows the amount of donations collected in the first few hours of Jan 1st. It is difficult to judge whether this is a lot or not, but the majority of Hatsumode revenue is collected at individual ritual places inside the shrine complex. No wonder and lucky admission is free!
Martin Werner Zander, Smith’s Partner
Owner, Smith’s School of English Franchise in Kotoen