Welcoming in the new year: Japanese style

New Year’s in Japan is quite different to the western world. There are no parties, no fireworks, no noise. Here, New Year’s is celebrated inside with family, eating the traditional food called osechi ryouri. Between the 1st and 3rd everyone goes to the shrine to pray, and by everyone I mean the entire population of 120 million people. Knowing that, I’d decided to avoid the shrines all together but when a friend asked me to go I thought “well today’s the 3rd, surely there won’t be many people?” How wrong I was…


We visited a shrine in Saitama called Hikawa jinja, definitely my favourite so far. The shrine is preceded by a long path with three red torii gates. This week the entrance is lined with street markets selling all kinds of food, games and Daruma dolls.




Once we made it through this crowd we waited in another crowd by the washing basin to perform temizu. This is a cleansing process done before praying. Typically you wash your left hand, then your right (or maybe it’s the other way around) and then your mouth but I didn’t see many people putting that water in their mouths. I’m pretty certain we were all thinking the same thing – how clean is that water really?




Then we finally got to pray. For this you will need a small coin, 5 yen being the most popular because it brings good connections with people. The ritual is throw in your coin, clap twice and bow, then say your name and your prayer, then go before you’re knocked over. In my haste to move, what did I forget…to say my name! I guess that wish won’t be coming true.



As we left I did my first o-mikuji, fortunes written on strips of paper which are randomly chosen from a box, then tied onto the wire fence. According to my friend I had a good fortune, so here’s hoping for a good year.

2 Responses to “Welcoming in the new year: Japanese style”
  1. alliblair says:

    Very cool!

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