For New Year's John and I decided to celebrate the traditional Japanese way. Hatsumode is the first visit to a shrine (or temple) in the New Year. Many people will go right around midnight, but shrines remain crowded for the first couple days of the year. We went to Hikawa shrine, which is just around the corner from our apartment, just before 12:00. Because it's such a small shrine it wasn't too crowded and we were close to the front of the line. At midnight people begin throwing donations of money in a box and ringing a bell. We were then given a cup of hot sake, from the sake drums they crack open at midnight. It was very sweet sake, and I think it was unfiltered. Then John and I bought fortunes (おみくじ), but alas John couldn't really read them.
Arriving at the Shrine
There were so many lanterns it was almost as bright as day
The money donation/bell ringing line. John heard one Japanese man comment the place was full of foreigners!
Our fortunes. John's might say that he's going to lose money, but have ease in childbirth.
Around New Year's decorations called Kadomatsu are placed in front of homes and businesses traditionally to welcome ancestral spirits.
They can be quite large
Or quite small
Starting January 2nd there are many sales, and we saw lots of Kadomatsu tucked in and around products at the stores.
2013 is the Year of the Snake
This is a decoration of mochi with a tangerine on top (fake), it's supposed to bring good luck.
Another New Year's tradition is sending postcards (ねんがじょ), sort of like sending Christmas Cards. If you get them to the post office by a certain day the post office guarantees to deliver them on New Year's day. This year they delivered 1.89 billion! We were super thrilled to receive on from John's secretary. It's proudly displayed on our fridge now.