We have just welcomed 2014, and this post will now be my 100th published blog entry! Amazing to think that the year, and that many posts have flown by in such a short period of time. Hopefully you find this post interesting, as I certainly found the differences between New Years in Australia and Japan rather interesting.
Celebrations in Japan are very different to what I’m used to back home in Australia. While Christmas is our important family celebration, and New Years is more for gathering with friends in Japan it’s the reverse. In Japan, Christmas isn’t really celebrated (and if it is, it’s with fried chicken rather than turkey) and New Years is the big family event. As a part of New Years it’s traditional to stay up until midnight and eat soba noodles, and mochi (a sticky rice cake) is also eaten with the family as a part of the New Year celebrations.
For us, we spent New Years morning with Takeshi’s mother visiting the local shrine for hatsumode (the first visit to the shrine for the year) and to get our years fortune called omikuji – unfortunately I only got a little luck! Afterwards we headed out to Sumiyoshi Taisha, a Shinto shrine in Osaka which is the second most popular shrine to visit for New Years with approximately 2.6 million visitors over the three day public holiday period. The shrine itself was founded in 211, and is roughly 1800 years old. The crowds there were… well incredible. I don’t think I have really experienced crowds in Japan before we went to Sumiyoshi Taisha on New Years Day and it was crazy – it took us a good two hours to get from the train station into the temple and then back out. Considering that we only travelled a distance of maybe 600 metres or so I think I can safely say the crowds were rather big.
The atmosphere though within the temple was incredible. Even though we could barely move (it was rather like being a sardine in a can), especially as we got closer to the main temple people were still polite and there wasn’t too much pushing. Within the temple grounds there were stalls selling omamori (lucky charms), and outside the temple within the park there were stalls with games for kids and also lots of food for sale (yum!). I thought it was a fantastic experience, and it has definitely inspired me to visit Japan again in the summer to head to one of the summer matsuri (festivals).
So, here are a few photos from the day so you can also experience what it is like to visit one of the most popular Shinto shrines on New Years Day.
Happy New Year everyone, akemashite omedetougozaimasu!