Hatsumode (New Year visit) 2018

Every year I like to visit my local shrine, which just happens to be a World Heritage site. Shimogamo Jinja in the north of Kyoto is surrounded by an ancient grove known as Tadasu no mori, and during the more than twenty years that I’ve been attending Hatsumode I’ve seen changes in the way the shrine markets itself. This year, as previously, I noticed small additions and alterations designed to make the shrine more appealing. Here’s my photo report of this year’s visit…

All dressed up for the year of the dog. Notice the hand-paws pose…

Shimogamo’s main ema this year shows a champion Tosa fighting dog, awarded the top sumo rank of Yokozuna with a shimenawa neck decoration. (The Shinto-sanctioned Tosa dog fighting is based on sumo rules: see https://www.dog-breeds-expert.com/Japanese-Tosa.html)

First time I’ve ever seen this intrusive sign at the shrine entrance. A far cry from the friendly and peaceful atmosphere that prevails at Hatsumode. What could have motivated the authorities? A cynic might suspect it is part of the climate of fear exemplified by the anti-terror notices that have appeared not only here in the middle of Kyoto but at remote rural stations. A climate of fear conducive to the election of right-wing politicians…

First time too I’d seen these fragrance bags on sale, much as in a souvenir shop.

First you have to read the fortune slips…

… then tie them up

But wait a minute! This notice says the fortune slip is the voice of the kami and should be carefully preserved for a year. How odd!

Not only the fortune slips, but the offerings of sake are carefully and aesthetically arranged

Rock offering for the new year… kagami mochi with a daidai orange on top. The rice cakes (mochi) are shaped like a mirror, pleasing for the kami, double decked so as to double the good fortune. The daidai fruit promotes longevity, from one generation to the next.

This year was the first time I’ve see the back entrance of the honden opened to the public – for a fee of course.

A warming fire for the midwinter visitors

… and a warming cup of sweet sake too.

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