“A popular place to visit on New Years Day”
Hatsumōde is traditionally the first visit to a shrine of the New Year. The first wish of the year is made, and it is said that this very first wish is always granted by the gods. The entrance to Yasukuni Shrine is lined with the usual market of delicious smelling food. Something to tempt me on the way out, no doubt.
After I make my wish, I take a wander around Yasukuni Shrine. This shrine is actually steeped in controversy. It houses the spirits of the people that died in combat as they fought for Japan in wars between 1867–1951. The shrine also honours the souls of dead war criminals. There is a museum here where you can read letters written by Kamikaze pilots, that were left for their loved ones before they died.
After exploring the shrine, I decide to eat some sticks of fried cheese, and my favourite street food; strange looking but delicious yakisoba, layered in seaweed. ¥600 well spent. Free saké is also offered, with donations welcome.
I wander through the markets in the shrine, and decide to purchase an omamori; a Japanese amulet sold at religious shrines. This talisman will be placed in my house, to give me good fortune and protection from evil spirits. Next, I pay ¥100 to receive my fortune. Unfortunately for me, my fortune is written in Japanese. I try to translate it myself, and I get the following message:
“Whoever meets in this fortune is brought happiness that appeared by virtue of good people. I will be appearing, but the eye of devotion remains out of sight, like a ball hidden in the stone.”
On the way out of the temple, a man dressed as a dragon tries to eat my head; apparently this creature can devour the evil spirits living inside of me, and cleanse my mind.
A shrine dedicated to the war dead which is also a famous place for cherry blossoms. The festival stalls are a must-see.