20 January, 2011

Going on Hatsumode!

  During the New Year Holidays, I went on Hatsumode at Ikuta Shrine, located about a 5 minute walk from JR Sannomiya Station. As I explained on December 20th blog, it’s a Japanese tradition where people visit a shrine for the first time in the ew ear to pray for health and prosperity.

Ikuta Shrine

  Because it’s an important event, most people visit the shrine during the New Year’s break which lasted until the 3rd this year. The origin of Hatsumode was an event called Toshigomori, where the eldest man of the house spent a night in the shrine from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day. Over time, Toshigomori was divided into a New Year’s Eve visit and a New Year’s Day visit to the shrine. This New Year’s Day visit became Hatsumode. Until the end of the Edo era, people visited shrines that were located at Eho, or the lucky direction of the year. But by the Meiji era, this tradition had become less popular, and people started to visit the shrine of their choice. 
  Now, huge lines form at the popular shrines, making it a challenge just to enter the shrine. I visited Ikuta Shrine in Sannomiya, which is one of the more popular shrines in Kobe, and it was packed. The city had closed down the entire block around the shrine and wasn’t allowing cars to pass, to make more space for people.

  Many people go on Hatsumode to pray, but most people also do omikuji. An omikuji is a sheet of paper with a fortune for that year on it. Daikichi, or a big luck, is the best and Kyo, or bad luck, is  the worst. It comes in a scale of 6 levels. For me, I got chu-kichi, or middle luck, which is the second best on the scale! It is a tradition to tie the omikuji to a tree or other places in a shrine, to keep a “tie” with the god.


  Besides omikuji, many people purchase ema, a small wooden board with the year’s Chinese Zodiac animal printed on it where people write their wish, and kumade, a rake with different lucky charms which rakes in good luck. By the way, did you know that 2011 is the year of the rabbit?


Shrines in Hyogo
Minatogawa Shrine http://www.minatogawajinja.or.jp/ (Japanese              
Nishinomiya Shrine http://www.decca-japan.com/nishinomiya_ebisu/Japanese

Shark (Hyogo Tourism Association)