Home > Focus on Japan 2011 > Attempted Hatsumode

Attempted Hatsumode

January 1st, 2011

Sachi and I went to the nearby Tanashi Shrine today, hoping to do our hatsumode, or new year’s shrine visit for the season. When we got there, however, we saw this:

Hatsu Line01

Yep. A huge, long line. And what you see above is just the start of it. We have been going to Hie Shrine in mid-town the past couple years, but decided to go local–little did we know that the lines would be longer here. The line went way down the path to the rear entrance, then went down the block and around the corner and snaked back up almost to the side entrance of the shrine. Here’ a video of less than half that line:

The movie above ends about halfway through the entire line. So, instead, we just went to a small side shrine (actually, nicer than the main one) where almost no one was going, with the idea that we’ll go back again tomorrow or the next day for our “official” visit.

Alt Shrine

Of course, we chowed down on matsuri food; Sachi had okonomiyaki while I had yakitori and a frank. We returned last year’s charms for burning, and bought a few new ones, as usual.

A nice shrine visit, despite the line thing.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2011 Tags: by
  1. Frankie
    January 1st, 2011 at 19:52 | #1

    Ciao Luis-san,
    Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu…
    I miss the year new’s in Japan. In Europe and the states the new year tends to be the usual gathering with the family with fire works all over. What religious aspect
    does visitng the shrines have? To you also pray for the ancestors? Is there a difference between visiting a Buddhist or a Shinto shrine?

  2. Luis
    January 1st, 2011 at 21:00 | #2


    Thanks for the greetings! In Japan, generally speaking, people are not overly religious, or at least religion and the afterlife are simply not much on people’s minds too much. Many people are “Shinto” or “Buddhist” more because they visit shrines and temples for the appropriate occasions at the appropriate times, and follow traditions like venerating ancestors (usually in the form of having photos of grandparents who have passed away up on walls near the ceiling, or having a small indoors shrine to pray at once in a while). But you ask the average Japanese person what it means to be religious, they may be at a loss. Some will even equate “religion” with cults like Aum Shinrikyo, and will consider what they do at shrines and temples to be something else.

    When I get to the front of the line at a shrine on New Year’s, I usually just concentrate on good will to family and in general to people who need it. But I will admit that a lot of it is simply going along with the festivities.

    As for the difference, essentially, shrines are for beginnings and temples for endings. You would celebrate births and weddings and New Years’ at shrines, and temples get funerals and other perhaps dire and solemn stuff. Mostly, these activities are just things people do. People go to shrines on New Years, so that’s what people do. Kind of like in the U.S., people gather together, watch the ball fall, count down to midnight, sing “Auld Lang Syne,” and drink champagne. Why? Because that’s what people do. Similar feeling there.

Comments are closed.