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Goin’ Japanesque!

A Guide to Hatsumoude: A New Year’s Visit to the Shrine

We’re off to a shrine to experience “hatsumoude!” That’s what it says on the sign here. Temples and shrines that are rather big in scale have signs up on New Year. Very noticeable and merry, is it not? 

This is called a “torii,” and it is said to function as a gateway for the Gods so they know where to go. This torii’s made of stone, but you might be more familiar with the red ones made by wood. They differ in size and material, even shapes.
Some toriis in Japan are famous for the location it was built, their size, their number, and of course the serene scenery it creates. 

If you’re lucky enough to experience the New Year in Japan, I recommend you to go to a traditional “hatsumoude!” The term means to visit a temple or a shrine after the New Year. People young and old gather, and even make miles of lines just to make an offering, and give thanks to the God that comes to that certain temple or shrine. 

After going through the torii (or several toriis), you’ll find these engraved stones which hold a place for each God. There are some with bells called “kane” (not money), so you can scatter away the evil spirits before making your prayer. After giving your offering, be sure to bow twice, followed by clapping your hands twice. Only then, you are allowed to pray and thank the Gods for watching over you. Bow once when your prayer is done. 

These are the “offerings” you must give in exchange for calling God and have him listen to your prayer. They’re called “osaisen,” and you can choose how much you want to offer. Maybe give more for a greater god or for a god that you need the most at that time. 

People give thanks to the “ofuda” at the end of the year, and bring it back to where they bought it on the New Years. An ofuda is very much like a omamori, however, its size, scale, detail (and for some believers, power?) cannot be compared to a miniature size that you can carry anywhere.

You must pay for your ofuda to get burned with other ofudas from different people/family, and purchase a new one for the upcoming year. The price of each ofuda can vary, even though they look exactly the same. From my experience, it ranges from 50 bucks and higher, even around 500 bucks for that year alone.

Which ofuda, or what kind of wish would you ask for? 

Related: 6 Tokyo Temples and Shrines for Hatsumode Based on Objective

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