A visit to a shrine, within the first few days of the new year, is a very important aspect of Japanese culture, known as hatsumode. There are various celebrations held at these shrines, but we chose to attend the Daruma doll festival, at Haijimadaishi Shrine, near our home.
The shrine was decorated for the new year with colorful bunting. Love all the use of color!
The first prayer of the new year is very important, so the line to the actual shrine was very long. We didn't wait in the line, but just walked around enjoying the festivities.
There were lots of food stalls.
Japan does not really have street food AT ALL, except for at the festivals, so it's always a treat.
The chocolate covered banana on-a-stick, is always a favorite!
Daruma is a good luck doll for the upcoming year.
You buy a new Daruma doll each year, and color in one eye when you make your wish. If your wish comes true during the year, you color in the other eye.
You bring last year's Daruma to throw in the fire, which is part of the "out with the old, in with the new" approach to the new year, that I really like.
There were stacks, upon stacks of Daruma's, of all sizes, waiting to be purchased.
There were also many colorful and festive decorations of other kinds.
One of my favorites, was the kabura-ya, or arrow with a "turnip" shaped tip. These are modeled after arrows that the samurai used, to attach messages to and shoot them into a fortress or other enclosure. Now, they are sold at Shinto shrines at the new year, as protection from evil spirits.
I don't personally buy into superstition, but really liked the look of it, and the tiny daruma attached. Here is a closer look.
At one point we were motioned over by a group of fire fighters who were on their break. The ladies in the group were fixing lunch for the guys.
They were so kind, and offered us a bowl of soup. It was a miso soup with some vegetables. It tasted so good and warm on a cold day.
We enjoyed talking to them for a few minutes, and one of the guys had very good English. Then they offered us the "dessert" soup. It was a sweet red bean (azuki) soup, with a brick of mochi at the bottom.
Mochi is made from pounding rice into a paste, then forming it into the desired shape. It is a very popular dish around the new year. It kind of had a chewy texture. We really enjoyed trying these truly authentic new year foods, and chatting with these nice people. Thanks fire department!
I really loved this dragon dog! When you see a dragon, in a parade or elsewhere, hold your head out. If the dragon comes up to bite your head, you will have good luck. I didn't know this and have lost several chances at luck! Better late than never....
Doesn't look as menacing from this angle!
It has been so much fun for me to learn about this amazing culture, which is so very different from my own. Happy New Year!