New Year’s Shrine Visits


    With the passing of each year, every country and culture has its own traditions to celebrate our turn around the Sun. In Japan, one of the most popular traditions for natives and foreigners alike is the yearly temple/shrine visit, which is generally done as close to January 1st as possible, though many of the services are available for the first 2-3 weeks of January. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the most interesting and fun bits of the tradition!

Prayer 新年の祈り

    Year’s Resolution, and you’ll generally want to pray for what you wish for in the coming months. With your prayer, it’s good luck to offer either a 5 or 50 yen coin! For added fortune, it’s also common to add your home address at the end of your prayer; while this may seem strange, it’s to help make sure the blessings find their way to the right person.

Omikuji おみくじ

    The omikuji is a type of fortune that you can only get once a year! They usually cost 100 yen, so there’s little reason not to get one. Each omikuji will give both an overall fortune and more specific readings in different categories. The overall fortune will range from terrible luck to great luck, and the categories include the usual things such as career and love fortunes. If you get a fortune you like, you’re meant to keep it in your wallet until the end of the year. If you get a fortune you don’t like, there are lines of string for you to tie it around. If you tie it to the string, you’re counteracting the fortune offered, and your new fortune is in the hands of fate! However, the bad luck fortunes are actually the rarest, so there are many people who keep them just for the novelty. If you’re not superstitious, it may be worth it to try your luck!

Omamori お守り

     Omamori are small protective charms that you buy at a shrine. Different omamori have different effects, and you can buy general ones that offer general luck and protection from bad vibes. If you buy an omamori, it’s tradition to bring it back to the shrine at the beginning of the next year, as the power is said to be spent. Additionally, if you buy a charm for a specific purpose (like job hunting) and your wish comes true, you’re also supposed to return the charm for the same reason. Generally, you’re supposed to keep it on you as much as possible, though it’s said to be good luck if you lose it or if it breaks. If something bad happens to the charm, it means that you avoided a bad fate!

     Different shrines and temples will have their own yearly traditions as well; for example, many Buddhist temples will do things like fire ceremonies where they burn old charms and other items to purify the temple. If you’ve got the time and the willpower, it’s worth visiting more than one, since there’s no bad luck for praying at multiple places! Whether you’re religious or not, it can never hurt to try for a little extra luck in the New Year.

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