Starting the New Year Japanese Style, Hatsumode

On the dot of midnight, December 31st, all across Japan, temple
bells begin to ring out to welcome in the new year. The deep, resonating
booming of temple bells can be heard from miles around in the crisp, cold air.

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To the Japanese, New Years Day is as important as Christmas in
the west, and is celebrated as such. Part of the traditional celebrations
include performing Hatsumode.

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Hatsumode is the First Visit of the New Year to a Shinto Shrine,
to thank the Shinto gods for the previous year, and pray for happiness in the
coming, new year (Pictures above: Tsushima Shrine’s Main Gate and the great crowd awaiting for midnight on New Year’s eve).

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Some of the more famous shrines around Aichi include the
nationally famous Atsuta Jingu in Nagoya City (picture above), which receives millions of
visitors over the first three days of the year. The Toyokawa Inari (picture below), a rare
combination of Buddhist temple and Shinto shrines, is one of the nations Three
Big Inari shrines, dedicated to the god of foxes. Inazawa City is famed for the
ancient Owari Ookunitama Shrine, while the historical Tsushima Shrine, head of
a 3,000 shrine network is also a very popular Hatsumode spot.

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(Above: Toyokawa Inari on New Year’s and its famed Reiko-zuka Foxes)

It is a big occasion with many dressing in kimono, and many
shrines surrounded by festival like attractions and food stalls.

Many people make the mistake of going to temples to perform
Hatsumode, but in fact, Shinto Shrines are where one truly does Hatsumode.
Performing Hatsumode is simple. Make your way to your local shrine, remembering
to bow as you pass under the distinctive tori gates, as you are entering holy
ground. Upon entering, you’ll see people going through a ritual cleansing process,
scooping water and washing both hands, then standing in line to take turns at
facing the shrine. It’s as simple as depositing an offertory coin, bowing
twice, clapping your hands twice, putting your hands together, and with your
eyes closed and head bowed, pay your respects. When you’ve finished, bow again,
and you’re done!

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(Above: washing hands before the prayer is part of the purification ritual)

The faithful crowds, now done with their spiritual obligations, then buy amulets, including traditional cloth bags
called Omamori, or arrows, even Kumade bamboo rakes decorated with auspicious items to
“rake in” fortune. Speaking of fortunes, omikuji, fortunes telling the outcome of
your year ahead are also popular. Some, especially those who have bad luck
predicted, will fold the omikuji into a long thin string and tie it to a tree
or special line set up for the occasion.

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(Above: amulets for sale at Atsuta Jingu Shrine on New Year’s)

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(Above, kumade rake amulets for sale at a Japanese shrine)

It’s a great way to start the new year, and experience Japanese
culture too.

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(Above: Main Gate of Masumida Shrine on New Year, Ichinomiya City)

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(Above: the great crowds at Tsushima Shrine continue for the three first days of New Year in Tsushima City)

Aichi Now – Hatsumode Feature
(Basic English version): https://www.aichi-now.jp/en/features/detail/10/

Aichi Now – Hatsumode Feature
(Complete Japanese version): https://www.aichi-now.jp/features/detail/131/

Starting the New Year Japanese Style, Hatsumode
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Original Source: Aichi Now
Starting the New Year Japanese Style, Hatsumode

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