Is it your dream to teach English in Japan?
Hatsumoude is the Japanese tradition of visiting a temple or shrine for the first time after the new year. Some people like to go at midnight on new year’s eve, and some people don’t go at all. I tend to go when it’s convenient if I live in Japan or visit during winter.
We had a really relaxing week after buying everything we needed for our apartment, and decided to check out this huge statue we could see from our house. We had no other excuse to leave the house on new year’s day, so we had a nice walk and it was a beautiful day.
She is Kannon, or the Bodhisattva called Avolakitesvara, in case you know about Buddhism at all… (I took an Asian art history class about Buddhist art – the only reason I know.) This is a temple from the Buddhist group called Naritasan (成田山).
I expected it would be busy, and it was, so we didn’t enter the paid area. I guess there is an anamatronic recreation of hell and you can even climb up into the statue. Maybe another day.
We skipped getting omikuji (おみくじ) also, which I guess is only something I do, once a year or so. Omikuji is translated as ‘omen’ or ‘fortune.’ There are varying degrees of luckiness or unluckiness, and a few comments about where you are at in your life, something to think about or focus on, suggestions for improvement, etc. Each shrine or temple has slightly different ones. They are usually 100 yen, unless they are a fancy type that comes with a keychain or something like that. I have gotten a “Koimikuji” (love fortune) with a heart shaped bell cellphone strap, for example.
Omikuji are the pieces of paper you can see folded and tied to trees or wires/strings set up near temples and shrines in Japan. Some people hold on to them, at least if they’re lucky, but most people tie them to a tree branch.
Less than a week later, we were visiting a little free river museum that is one of those elementary school type exhibits of fish living in the river and old photos of flooding. They had free omikuji there, win! I got a lucky one that said I should try something new, since things are going my way.
There are lots of firsts in Japan after the new year. Hatsumode and getting omikuji are just an example of common new year traditions in Japan.