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Tokyo New Year 東京のお正月

January 25, 2009

So, since the Lunar New Year is upon us, I guess I should get the Gregorian calendar’s new year post out of the way.

I spent new year eve at Yasukuni shrine and new year day at Meiji shrine.  New Year is THE holiday of the year in Japan and loads of people go to a shrine or temple.  Most go on new year day but there are still a lot who want to get their blessings as soon as possible.  Lunar (Chinese New Year) is celebrated in Japan as well but the Western (Gregorian) new year became more important in 1873 as Emperor Meiji was trying to bring Japan into the modern age by embracing all things Western.

There are slight differences in the celebrations between the Shinto and Buddhist.  At both, stalls are set up to sell food, games, and things nobody really needs but buy anyway.  Coins are tossed in offering but on new year eve in particular, the Buddhist way of doing things is a bit more exciting.  There isn’t much fanfare at the Shinto shrines when the clock strikes midnight.  A drum is hit once and then the people gathered toss their coins and wish for health, happiness, and whatever.  At the Buddhist temple however, groups of priests are up in the bell towers ringing their bloody big brass bells.  A total of 108 strikes to account for all of man’s earthly desires.  Didn’t know there were so many, did you?


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