As in other countries, Japanese people also celebrate the coming of a new year…but in a little different way.
People do a deep cleaning of the house before the year ends. Children help to clean their schools. Families decorate their houses. There is still customary to send many greeting cards to friends and coworkers. Special foods are prepared.
At Shinto Shrines (Jinga – 神社), priests celebrate a ceremony to receive the new year. Many people go to a Jinja after midnight on December 31, others do it in the following days (this first visit of the year is called Hatsumōde – 初詣). In a big city famous Jinja the concurrence of people can be massive.
People go to thank and to express their wishes for the starting year. It is a conventional mark of renewal and the opportunity of a new beginning. People buy an amulet for good luck and dispose of the old one. Some buy a written prediction. If it is adverse, they leave it tied in the temple with the hope that misfortune remains there.
This year, after midnight, I went to the neighborhood Jinja. The Jinja was decorated for the occasion. I did not find a big crowd. I prayed. On the way out someone gave me an orange. A fire was lit in the yard. It was a nice way to start the new year.
If you are in Japan for this date you may visit a Jinja to share the traditional Hatsumōde. If you, like me, do not like big crowds, avoid the most popular jinjas.