初詣2016 – Hatsumode 2016

In Japan, there’s a widely celebrated tradition called “hatsumode” (初詣), which is the first Shinto shrine visit of the new year.  This is a very lively time where street vendors sell handmade crafts and traditional near years food called “osechi” (お御節) which commonly consist of rice, shrimp, egg, and assorted vegetables.  They also sell “omamori” (お守り), which are good luck charms that represent different deities and are said to bring luck and protection.  Since I was staying at an international hostel in Asakusa, I decided to visit one of Japan’s most famous shrines, Senso-ji, to test my luck.

Senso-ji is Tokyo’s oldest temple and is associated with Buddhism.  I wore a winter cosplay kimono from Love Live! and made my way to the alter of the shrine.  Outside, vendors were selling chocolate bananas, fried seafood, and lollipops shaped like anime characters.  If I had a bottomless stomach, I would have eaten everything.  Inside, people were tossing yen coins and praying to the shrine.  I tossed some coins out of respect for the shrine and made my way to the “omokuji” (おみくじ) line.  Omikuji are Japanese fortune-telling paper strips that tell you your fortune.  For 100円, I was able to shake the metal container and draw a stick.  After matching the number on the stick to a wooden cabinet drawer, I pulled “daikichi” (大吉) which is the best fortune!  You can read the description of the paper below:

Needless to say, I was very thrilled and excited for vehicles of treasure to arrive at my door.  The next shrine I decided to visit was Meiji Shrine, another of Japan’s most famous shrines located in Shibuya.  Meiji Shrine was even more crowded than Senso-ji, and there were police officers directing the crowds outside so the shrine wouldn’t become overcrowded.  In contrast to Senso-ji, Meiji Shrine is in a more forested area in Yoyogi and is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife.  It was nightfall when I arrived and the trees and shrine looked beautiful and alive under the illuminated lights.  I enjoyed seeing the lanterns and sake barrels surrounding the entrance!

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