Hatsumode and Japanese New Year Traditions
New Years is perhaps the most important holiday that
is celebrated in Japan, with three days of festivities celebrated
across the country. Hatsumode, or "First Worship of the Year"
is an essential part of the celebration.
Hatsumode is the first shrine or temple visit of the new year. Even people who do not hold Buddhist or Shinto beliefs will visit a shrine or temple during the first three days of the New Year in order to pray for a safe and happy year. People will make offerings of money, draw omikuji paper fortunes, and buy special good-luck charms and amulets (omamori) to ensure good health, success in business or school, finding a marriage partner, and so forth.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of Hatsumode is seeing many people dressed in formal kimono. Many young women in Kyoto will wear colorful kimono for the event, and footage of these shrine-goers can be seen on the evening news every year.
The Emperor of Japan performs a ceremony called the
shihohai (ritual prayer towards the four directions) at dawn on
the morning of the gantan (the first day of the new year). Traditional
families will often choose the shrine or temple for their hatsumode
depending on which direction is considered to be the most auspicious
that year. For this reason, hatsumode is also called ehomairi, (eho
means "blessed directions" and mairi means "worship
visit"). Of course, many people will choose a temple or shrine
solely on the basis of its fame rather than its direction.
It is said that nearly 70 million people in Japan visit shrines and temples over the three day New Years Holiday every year. This number may seem too large to believe, but each year Tokyo's Meiji Jingu alone receives 3.6 million visitors, and Kyoto's Fushimi Inari Taisha, believed to be lucky for business success and financial prosperity, is visited by as many as 2.4 million people.
Yasaka Jinja (a large shrine in Gion) and Heian Jingu are also extremely popular places for hatsumode in Kyoto.
Once the hatsumode have finished, many temples and shrines host a variety of New Years activities, such as the Kemari tournament (Heian-style soccer) at Shimogamo Jinja, and the annual archery competition at Sanjusangendo.
Here are some phrases connected with the new years holiday that you may find useful:
"Akemashite Omedetou (Gozaimasu)":This is the standard New Years greeting.
Karuta (from portuguese carta): Karuta is a card game played around New Years time.
Takoage (Kite flying): Kites are flown to celebrate a child's growth and happiness.
Otoshidama: A gift of money from parents to children.
Koma (tops): This game originated in China and came to Japan via the Korean Peninsula.
Suguroku: A Japanese backgammon game played with dice.
Nengajo (New Years greeting cards): Sending and receiving New Years cards is an important custom in Japan.
Hanetsuki (Japanese Badminton): beautifully designed wooden rackets called hagoita are used to hit a shuttlecock.
Igo The game of go, played with black and white stones, originated in China and has gained international popularity.
Shogi: Japanese style chess.
Life In Kyoto's staff would like to wish you all a very happy
New Year 2005, year of the rooster!
Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!
Here are some popular places to do hatsumode in Kyoto:
Keihan Line to Fushimi Inari Station, or JR Nara Line to Inari Sta.
City Bus 100 or 206 to Gion Bus Stop, or 15 minute Walk from Keihan Shijo Sta.
A ten minute walk from Subway Tozai Line Higashiyama Station, or take City Bus 5 to "Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsu-kan Mae".
-B. Jarvis, S. Narita
The Beauty of Taisho and Meiji Era Architecture[Part Two of a Series]
The Old Kyoto Daimai Kaikan (1928 Building)
Built in 1928 (Showa 3), the Old Kyoto Daimai Kaikan is a registered cultural asset of Kyoto City. It is a three story concrete building with a steel frame, designed by TAKEDA Goichi (1872-1938) and built by the Obayashi Group. The Art Deco Influence can be seen in the design of star-shaped balcony and windows. The building interior was renovated in 1998, and is currently being used as modern gallery space. On the first floor, there are art galleries and a non-profit radio station and cake shop (Radio Caf・ towards the rear), boutiques and other shops on the second floor, an art performance space on the third floor (Art Complex 1928), and "Cafe Independents" in the basement. The dim, narrow staircase leading into the basement is papered with event fliers, giving it the atmosphere of the underground art world.
Location: South-East corner of Sanjo and Gokomachi streets, close to the Teramachi Shopping Arcade.
Located at the corner of Sanjo and Karasuma Streets, Shinpuhkan was built in 1926 (Taisho 15). Shinpuhkan was designed by the Ministry of Posts and Communications architect Yoshida Tetsuro (1894-1956) to be used as the Central Telephone Company Building. The tile on the building's exterior are arranged in a subtly irregular design that is one of the building's distinguishing features. The bricks are laid in an unusual pattern, which might be considered an influence of North German Expressionist Movement. The building was L-Shaped at the time it was used by the telephone company, but a third side was added to make an open square shape, and the building was re-opened in 2001 as the Shinpuhkan shopping center. The three-storied building features clothing stores, restaurants, cafes etc., and the inner courtyard is used to hold events, as well as housing business facilities.
Doshisha Women's College,
Imadegawa Campus Eikou Kan (Registered Cultural Asset)
Eikou means "Glory" and "Eikou Kan" indicates the glory of Doshisha Women's College. Eikou Kan is one of the representative buildings of DWC Imadegawa Campus. Like the 1928 building, Eikou Kan was designed by Kyoto University architecture department founder TAKEDA Goichi (1872-1938). Takeda was known for his innovative use of the trendy European "Art Nouveau" style in his buildings during the Taisho and early Showa Era. Eikou Kan was constructed In 1932 (Showa 7) using funds donated by the American Fowler Family. For this reason Eikou Kan is also known as "Fowler Chapel". Fowler Chapel has a capacity of 1,600 people, and features a pipe organ made by the Canadian Casavan Company. This auditorium is used for daily prayer, college entrance and graduation ceremonies, Christmas mass and so forth.
James Kan (Registered Cultural Asset)
The two story brick "James Kan" is the oldest building on the Doshisha Women's College Campus. Like Eikou Kan, James Kan was designed by TAKEDA Goichi, and named after an American family that contributed funds to the College. The James Kan was built in 1914 (Taisho 3) and renovated in 2001. In modern times, the rooms in James Kan are used as an alumni lounge and classrooms. The strong relationship between Doshisha Founder Jou Nijima and the American families that contributed the funds to build Eikou Kan and James Kan might be seen as a step towards the early internationalization of Japan during the Taisho Period.
These buildings are accessible from subway Karasuma Imadegawa Station.