These photos were taken during the day of the 1st, and people are still coming in a steady stream. After all the incidentals of a New Year visit to the shrine, here is the real reason for all the visitors. This is the first prayer, why everyone has lined up for hours in the cold. There is an offering of money, and it is notable how the current economy affects the number of visitors and the amount of money offered. In economic hard times, there seems to be more visitors and less money. The people clasp onto the cloth tied to these bells and jingle them heartily, then clap their hands twice. The commotion attracts the attention of the spirits, and when they are roused (a matter of seconds), the hands are pressed together and held to the face to make a silent prayer. Thus the new year begins.

If my photos have inspired you to come to Japan and experience your own Japanese New Year, think again. Breaking your neck on the ice... choking to death on fetid, rotten food... all the gunplay... hmmm, maybe it's not so safe in Japan after all?

A Japanese New Year

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