As I said in the last post, most Japanese go to a shrine to pray for good fortune in the coming year. We go to a relatively small, but popular, local shrine near my in-laws house.
First, you head in the main gate:
Then join the line that snakes its way to the shrine's front entrance, where you toss your donation into the collection box out front, grab the robe hanging down from the bells, and give them a shake before clapping your hands once (to get the gods' attention) and praying:
After your prayer, you can get a New Year's shot of sake, buy good luck charms (which are very popular with those about to go through Examination Hell - high school and college entrance exams), and buy your New Year's fortune:
After you've read it (mine was Dai-Kichi, the highest level), you tie it to the ropes or to a tree in hopes that it will come true.
Then we always (actually, Grandma N always) buy castella, a Portuguese mini-cake that is very popular in Japan. Our shrine, being small, has only one vendor, but large shrines like Ikuta Shrine in Kobe might have as many as 30 or more different stalls, selling cakes, grilled corn-on-the-cob, yakitori, frankfurters on a stick, dried octopus 'kites', even superhero masks.
It's fun, and, strangely enough, the atmosphere reminds me of the summer auction/chili fest' in Buffalo Creek way back when I was a kid (other than little factors like language, hair color, food - picky picky!)
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