READY TO TRULY START THE NEW YEAR
Of course, no heart beats without food to build up its lifeblood and food doesn’t always have to be something we can eat (but that’s good too here in Japan). Food can also be spiritual and Tokyo offers a veritable smorgasbord of spiritual satisfaction for one and all.
So, with that in mind, yesterday we made our way over to our neighborhood shrine, Omiya Hachiman Shrine. It’s a short walk along the Zempukuji River from our place to the shrine and though the day was brisk the sun was shining and the walk was a pleasant little journey. At the entry to the shrine we paused to watch some students practicing the art of Kyuko – Japanese archery – a hobby-sport shared by many in Japan. It looked interesting. Perhaps we’ll give it a try this year.
From there we walked over the stand where a young acolyte collected our old arrow which will be burned in the Dondo Yaki Festival that will be held on Jan. 15th. This festival is for burning notes and holy charms in a “cleansing fire” to show gratitude for the past year and bring happiness for the year to come. The arrows, which are made of wood and with a wooden tip, are known as “hamaya” which literally means, "demon-breaking arrow," is a decorative arrow sold at shrines at New Year's to ward off misfortune and to attract good luck. Before leaving the shrine we made sure to buy our hamaya, which we’ll keep in the house.
After turning in our old hamaya we went for our “yakubarai.” This is a blessing (or some may say exorcism) done by the shrine’s priest for those who turn a certain age each year, which is known as “yakudoshi.” In our case that certain age is 60 (but for yakudoshi purposes one year is added to the age one will attain during the year). The ceremony is done for a group of people, who are all sitting on stools inside the shrine’s temple building, and it takes about 25 minutes. The priest chants, says each person’s name, offers prayers, and leads us through the ceremony. At the end we are given a plaque and some small gifts from the shrine – some cookies, a bottle of water that has been blessed to give us health, and a bottle of sake to enjoy.
Following all this another short walk along the river brought us back home again. Of course, by this time it had turned colder and the wind had some teeth in it, so rather than brave the chill of the night we decided to order one of our favorite New Year dishes to be delivered to our house. One phone call and many minutes later we were enjoying one of the neighborhood sushi shop’s sushi menus – a good way to top off our final New Year celebration.
And so, off we go into this bright & shiny New Year of 2007 – the year of the boar – and we wish all of our readers a very happy, prosperous, health, and safe New Year!
Japan truly has the most amazing New Year celebration. And Tokyo is such a fantastic city! Can't wait to keep reading...
Posted by: Naomi | January 17, 2007 at 02:42 AM