Welcome to 2010. I hope your hangover isn’t too bad.
Last night I had the great honour of being able to go to both a Buddhist temple and a Shinto Shrine to see in the new year. Japanese people do not have a problem with going to both a temple and shrine to pray for happiness and health in the coming year. As I went to meet my friend, the weather really reminded me of England: the cold, the light snow, the wind, and the darkness.
First, we made a stop at Kougaku-ji Temple. It’s a small temple, just a two minute walk from where I live. I’d seen it before, and the Tokugawa Emblems that adorn it. Previously, I thought it was just a small insignificant place. However, it is the place where the remains (or some of) of the very first Tokugawa Shogunate are kept. Following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Ieyasu Tokugawa ended the Japanese Warring States Period and established a military dictatorship which ran from 1600 to 1868 (Wikipedia). In modern Japanese pop culture, this is a very important time. Many television dramas, comics, and books are written about the establishment and end of the Tokugawa Era. Considering the immense impact that the Tokugawa Clan has had on Japan, it is amazing to think that I live just around the corner from a small, unknown temple where Ieyasu Tokugawa’s (some of the) remains are now kept. This is a real local ‘best-kept secret’.
It was here, at this very small and intimate temple where I saw in the New Year. The Buddhist monks (pictured) chanted sutras from books from about ten minutes to midnight, and ended just after midnight. Afterwards, we were taken outside (in the freezing cold, where snow was still settled on the ground) where we would, in turn, strike the temple bell. The bell was struck 108 times, as it is said that we have 108 sins that need to be cleansed. Fortunately for me, I only had to strike it once, the crowd and the monks would do the rest.
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know what to expect, so the camera that I took was only just enough to capture the events for this blog. I hope to go back to this temple with a tripod and other gear and take my time to photograph it properly, and do it justice.
After having the New Year chanted and tolled in, we went to Heaven Shrine, known locally as Hachiman Jinja. Here we had offered to us invitingly hot noodles to eat, and refreshing sake to drink. After refuelling and getting warmed up again by the huge fire (where last year’s prayer / wish boards are burnt) we went up and got new prayer / wish boards. On these, you would write your wishes for the New Year. Unfortunately, the lighting here was absolutely terrible, and so this is the best image I could manage under the conditions. Afterwards I went out for one more small cup of sake (I swear, it was only a small amount that I had), was introduced to some of my friend’s friends. Warmed by the fire a little more, then went home at about 1.30am.
Thanks for the invitation and your help, Mr Kato. Update from Mr Kato, the Buddhist ceremony is for New Year’s Eve, whilst the Shinto ceremony is for New Year’s Day. Arigatougozaimasu, Kato-san.