urban thoughts


Juxtaposition of small and large in central Tokyo

Monday, 4 February 2013

New Year's Day visit to the shrine

In Japan, New Year's Day is celebrated by the first meal and the first visit to the shrine.  
The special meal is a feast presented in a lacquered bento box: and a grilled snapper fish.

The visit to the shrine is a jolly affair - with street stalls selling toffee apples and yabi-soba.  I like to pay my respects to the local gods.

This is a local suburban shrine in Kobe.

A shinto shrine can be recognised by the orange gates leading to the most sacred space.

This year is year of the snake - so there are snakes decorating everything - I think this one is also a bell.
At the shrine, you can buy lucky charms to guard you against traffic accidents or help you find true love (we bought ones against traffic accidents to carry with us as we cycle round Oxford).

You can also buy wooden boards to write prayers and wishes: in other years, I have bought these as souvenirs.

When you have written your prayer, you hang it on a special stand and leave it there for anyone to read (if you can read Japanese or Taiwanese)

You can also buy a 'fortune' paper - when you have read it, you fold it carefully and tie it onto the branch of a tree - 

In shinto traditions and architecture there is a celebration of the natural world - the cycle of life and the power of nature, natural materials and the waving of twigs.  I love the way the paper fortunes are left to blow in the wind in the same way I am awed by the ritual re-building of the Ise shrine every 20 years.

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