Monday, May 3, 2010

Hokkaido Jingu - A Cold Snowy Hatsumode

2nd Jan, 2005 - Whilst it's best to visit the local Shrine shortly into the New Year, there's generally a bit of grace period... which is good because if everyone went at the same time it would be VERY BUSY. Even on the second of Jan, it was quite busy at Hokkaido Jingu or Shrine. This was my first Hatsumōde, even though I had seen examples of it on TV. In Hokkaido, it is a cold experience... but you certainly know you've been.

The shrine itself is (literally) sealed off behind plastic. I'm not sure if that's to keep the people or the snow out, but it didn't seem to degrade people's enthusiasm. The offering box has also been moved out of the Shrine... this is peak time for throwing some copper in the collection box for good luck.

There's always other things to do - such buy and put up an ema board (which mean picture-horse) as a personal votive offering. Actually ema originated from horse offerings to the Shinto Gods. It's a good thing that the offering has been simplified somewhat... might be hard carrying around a horse in this day and age - especially in the car.

And if ema aren't your thing than you can always buy a charm - and you will find an abundance of charms for every occasion at most Shinto Shrines.

Examples are shown below with the essential New Year fortune (left) known as omikuji, and an example of one of the overall good luck charms (right) known as omamori. There are a set number of fortune templates that you can get - ranging from good to bad. This particular omikuji is known as suekichi - and is generally one of the worse ones. What I should have done was to have tied the bad omikuji to one of the stands (or attached to pine trees) allowing you to free yourself of the bad luck. I forgot. D'oh!

 This Omamori is for general good luck, and its the sort of thing that you keep close to you (this one calls my wallet home).... but then again I also keep my bad-luck omikuji there! Do these balance out?

The day comes to an end... like many if not all shrines in Japan, the approach to the shrine is often where you will find many street vendors - especially food vendors. On a cold day like today - something hot to eat is a good option. You'll find such culinary delights as chocolate banana's, cotton candy, frankfurts and amazake (a low alcohol rice wine). Ok - it won't win any food awards.

It was a good day - but remember to be prepared for lots of people. And very busy car parks. Even in the cold Hokkaido winter.

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