Happy New Year!
Like last year, I was sadly not able to go back home for the holidays. However, it wasn’t entirely a bad thing, as it gave me the opportunity to experience New Year’s in Japan for the first time. It was quite wonderful seeing a different culture’s take on a familiar holiday. Oshōgatsu (Japanese New Year) in Japan is definitely a more family-oriented holiday than it is in Canada. Most businesses are closed from the 1st to the 3rd of January, and so everyone takes the opportunity to spend time with their families and engage in the numerous customs associated with oshōgatsu. For our first New Year’s in Japan, we were able to take part in one of those traditions — hatsumōde, the first shrine or temple visit of the year.
We went to Sensō-ji in Asakusa for hatsumōde. Sensō-ji is a really popular tourist spot and always full of people, but never had I seen it as crowded as it was on January 1st. The line to enter the temple spanned the entire Nakamise-dōri and overflowed all around to the neighbouring side streets. Those who weren’t waiting to enter the temple were lining up for omikuji, or fortunes on scrolls of paper.
Everyone else — including us — was trying out the various street food, from yakisoba to okonomiyaki, as well as hot amazake, perfect for a chilly winter day.