Monday, January 5, 2009

The Beginning of the Year in Japan: Hatsu-mode

Akemashite Omedeto Gozaimasu! (Happy New Year!!).

It is New Years Day in Japan and here's a great way to start it off! Go to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine and make your New Year's resolution by going on a Hatsumode (Going to a shrine to make the first wish of the year). The Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is located in Kamakura, south of Kanagawa Prefecture. As soon as you walk into the shrine, an 800 year-old gingko tree, known as the Oicho (The great gingko tree), welcomes you (as seen on the picture above). On New Year's Day, hundreds of people gather at the shrine to make their resolutions for the year. Although you must wait in line for about an hour or so to get to the main shrine, no better refreshment can be felt than tossing your coin into the osaisen bako (Wish box) and making your wish.

After finishing your Hatsumode at the shrine, I recommend that you walk to the nearby Komachi Dori (Komachi Street). Around the New Year's season, stores provide visitors with sweet sake, which is a must-have sake for New Year celebrations. Also, there are Japanese tea shops, sushi restaurants, and Japanese-style confectionary stores. Many stores there have wonderfully Japanese tastes and smells and are a perfect match for the atmosphere of Kamakura. Still haven't decided how to spend your New Year's Day in Japan? Go to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura and start off a great New Year!

*ACCESS to Tsuruogaoka Hachimangu: 10mins walk from JR Kamakura Station West Gate (Yokosuka Line / Shonan-Shinjuku Line).

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