Monday, March 11, 2013

Year of the Snake

This is the year of the snake.  People write wishes on the back of these wooden cards and hang them at shrines.
New Year’s Day is a big deal in Japan.  Many people say that Christmas is the “biggest” holiday in the USA-New Year’s Day is by far the biggest holiday in Japan. 

Similar to the Christmas cards with which many of you are familiar, most Japanese families send out New Year’s cards to their friends and family.  These cards arrive on January 1st.

The Japanese people are known for being extremely hard working and diligent as a people.  Many of the stereotypical Japanese “salary men” work and commute obscene hours six days a week.  New Year’s Day is one of the few days during the year that is a true holiday for almost everyone. 

To celebrate the new year, families gather together and visit shrines and temples.  They pray for health and prosperity and collect their fortune for the year.  Everyone is only allowed one fortune per year.  The fortunes range from the worst (daikyou) to the best (daikichi).  

In line waiting on New Year's Day.  Kawagoe, Saitama.
Kawagoe, Saitama
To collect your fortune, you pay the one hundred yen fee.  You then pick up a cylindrical container that is completely sealed shut save for one small hole at one end.  Inside the container are hundreds of long wooden rods with a number at one end.  After shaking the cylinder around and praying for a good fortune, the slip one wooden rod out to see the number.  The number corresponds with a set of drawers that contain the fortunes.  After finding the correct drawer, you open it up and take out your fortune.  If it is good, you keep it with you.  If not, you fold it over several times and tie it on a rack in the shrine to leave it for the gods. Here is a great blog post I found that illustrates this process with photos.

Karl with his Daikichi fortune.
My three years in Japan have yielded only bad fortunes.  Though my husband has always received the best fortunes.  Our Japanese friends tell us that this creates the perfect balance in our relationship. 

Let’s hope they are right!

Pin It!

No comments:

Post a Comment