To start this new blog off and as it’s the start of a New Year I will write my first Japanese category post about my visit to my local shrine to wish in the New Year.
Every year I take the trip by train to Nishinomiya Shrine to wish for luck in my everyday life and work life.
The walk from the station to the shrine takes about ten minutes but the cold weather can sometimes make this walk feel longer.
As we walk closer to the shrine we are greeted with prop-stands with people selling everything from food to toys. A few of the stands will try to sell you PlayStation 4s and PSP handheld’s.
A lot of the food stands are not very hygienic by my wife’s standards so we miss mostly all of them and wait until we get back to the station to eat and drink.
Last year, 2014, I did buy a fried octopus on a stick which was not as I expected and took me most of the ten minutes to eat on our way back.
But most of the stands are busy with your average shrine visitor as you can see with the pictures I took below. Even the entrance to the shrine is quite busy for a Friday.
A few years ago we made the mistake by going to the Shrine on a Saturday. The walk up to the shrine through the stands was packed with people and at one point we all came to a standstill for a good 30 minutes. As we had a new-born baby with use we decided to turn around and give it a miss that year.
After my seven years here and of those seven that I have visited the shrine I can say that most of the Japanese are not religious. They might seem that they are but I can assure you that eighty percent of them are not. The reason that most of the Japanese will go is all down to superstition. We all wish for happiness in our lives and the Japanese will go as far as going to the local shrine and throwing that odd five yen into the pot to get that promotion that they truly deserve as we would do at a wishing well.
Nearly all of the visitors will buy a lucky charm that has been blessed by the head Shinto priest. They will carry that charm for good luck around with them all year long.
And when they return the following year they will just chuck that little charm away and buy the next one even if it is the same design. You will find some of the charms can work up to a few hundred pounds or dollars.
Please don’t get me wrong in thinking that I am putting down the Japanese for this strange belief because as you can see I am a sucker for this superstitious trek every year too.
What I do like to do when I get to the shrine is walk under one of these paper dusters. The priest will dust the top of your head whilst saying a small prayer to dust away last year’s bad luck.
Another observation and truth that has been clarified by a number of Japanese people is that the staffs at these shrines (priests) are all hired students. Try and work that one out?
Next, I will walk through into the shrine itself and purchase myself a (plastic) leaf that has also been blessed to bring me good luck in my life and job. A few of the charms on the leaf will (should) bring me money and happiness for this year.
In total this year’s visit to Nishinomiya Shrine was a pleasant and enjoyable trip. I didn’t buy anything from the prop-stands on my way to and from the shrine which was for the best as the whole reason I went was to wish myself good luck in my job (English Language School) and my new found love for writing; bring me the money.
So this brings an end to my first blog on my life in Japan and I wish all of you a Happy New Year for 2015 and hope you get everything you wished for as well.