Tag Archives: oshogatsu

US Navy flights during oshogatsu

The issue of the US military in Japan has often been a touchy one for many people.  Voices against them have been getting louder, mostly when one of the servicemen rapes or murders a local person, resulting in tightening control over the soldiers and imposing a curfew on them.  However, there’s something that is irritating a lot of people, even though the military isn’t setting foot on Japanese soil outside the base.

They are doing training flights or exercises over the central Kanagawa area, which is exactly where I live.  Atsugi base is nearby, so there are bound to be many jets flying overhead.  I’ve come to accept that as normal.  However, January 1st to 3rd is Oshogatsu, the Japanese New Year, and the most important holiday period in the country.  It’s a time spent quietly going to shrines and temples to pray for the new year.  Quietly is the key word.  Around here, and especially the Fujisawa and Kamakura areas with many big temples and shrines, there are thousands of people trying to pray and wish for a good year.  But with frequent booming roars of jet engines overhead, it’s got a lot of people furious.  You’d think they’d tone it down a bit to pay some respects to the local traditions. It seems like I get to hear a jet, plane, or helicopter over my home every 30 minutes.

For a couple of days, many people just want peace.

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Hatsumode in Saitama

Happy New Year from Monjuji Temple in Saitama City. I’m spending the day with my family in Saitama at my in-laws’. We went to Monjuji Temple for Hatsumode, or the first visit to a temple in the new year.

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Monjuji’s main hall.

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Oshogatsu 5: Sasuke Inari Jinja

Our final destination on January 3rd was Sasuke Inari Jinja (佐助稲荷神社).  Inari shrines are famous for the numerous red torii gates forming a kind of tunnel along the main path leading up to the shrine.  They also have guardian fox statues in front of the shrine, just like other shrines have guardian dog statues.  This shrine is near Zeniarai Benten, but it’s much less popular.  But when we were there, there were plenty of visitors.  This was my second time at this shrine.  Apparently, this shrine was the site of the hidden village of Kamakura, which was home to the predecessors of the ninja.  It’s in a well protected area, being difficult to reach except for one direction.  Enjoy the pictures!

This narrow path heads away from Zeniarai Benten.

We're coming up to the entrance of Sasuke Inari Shrine.

A bit closer now. Lots of red torii.

And the torii keep going for a long way.

Going up the hill, still more torii.

A small statue at the side of the path.

Yes, still going up!

The shrine is in sight!

Looking back down from the top of the stairs.

One of the guardian fox statues typical of Inari shrines.

Another path leads up to the left. We didn't go that way.

This is the main building of the shrine.

Yes, there are even more steps behind the shrine building!

This is another small shrine behind the main building.

The red maple leaves are still visible here.

And that’s it for the Oshogatsu pictures.  I hope you enjoyed it!

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Oshogatsu 4: Zeniarai Benzaiten

Our next stop was Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Jinja (銭洗弁財天), or Zeniarai Benten (銭洗弁天).  This shrine is famous for washing money.  If you wash your money in the shrine’s spring and keep it as a lucky charm, you will have good luck with money.  It’s the second most popular place in Kamakura.  It’s a very interesting place.  First of all, it’s almost completely surrounded by cliffs.  Second, it has an interesting entrance, which you will see below.  This shrine shows a fusion of Shinto and Buddhist features, which is also quite unusual.  For a unique experience, it’s definitely a must see.

Being oshogatsu, a lot of people were visiting the shrine.  We decided to go there to wash our money for luck in the new year, and also get fortunes.  The shrine is located west of Kamakura station, past the city office and through a tunnel.  There are signs giving directions.

The road to the shrine was busy with people.

Up the hill, we walked toward the entrance of the shrine.

The main entrance of Zeniarai Benten is unique. You have to go through a tunnel.

Once we emerged from the tunnel, a series of torii could be seen.

There were plenty of people there.

That's the main shrine. The cave entrance is near there, as well.

At this time, we went to do what we came for.  We got some baskets to wash our money in, as well as incense sticks and candles.  Then we just had to wait in line.

As we waited in line to wash our money, we could see another row of torii.

This is the basket we had to wash the money in. We also had a candle and incense sticks to light.

Many of the torii are wooden, but some are stone.

The shrine is surrounded by high cliffs on 3 sides. This maple tree still had red leaves, even in early January.

We approached the main shrine to pray, and then light our candles and incense sticks.

After our candles and incense sticks were lit, we went into the cave to wash our money.  We had to pour water through the baskets that held our money.

The money has been washed! That US dollar was from out trip to Canada a year ago, but through the USA.

A look back into the cave, where we washed our money.

There were a few of these pits where incense sticks were burning. People were drying their money with the heat from the fire.

Now that we’ve washed out money, we have to keep them in our wallets and never spend them.  They’re now lucky charms.  We then bought some other charms and omikuji.  When I looked at mine, I saw 大吉!  That means very lucky!  I guess I’m supposed to have a lucky year.

Zeniarai Benten was an interesting experience.  I’ve been there twice before, but never tried washing my money.  This time, I didn’t do any exploring, but instead experienced the shrine.

Next up is the final part of the Oshogatsu series!  You’ll be seeing red!

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Oshogatsu 3: Daigyoji

After Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, we went to Daigyoji (大巧寺).  This temple is very near Kamakura station and the main police station.  This temple is known as a place where expecting mothers can go to pray for good childbirth.  Our time there was pretty short, and the pictures will explain everything.

This is the entrance of Daigyoji.

The red main gate of Daigyoji.

There's a nice garden and path leading to the temple.

This must have water in it during the summer. It's dry now.

My wife washing her hands.

Here's the main hall of the temple.

A close-up of the woodwork at the front of the temple. Notice the dragon?

Here's another temple building.

Part 4 is coming soon with some money laundering (just kidding.  We washed some money).

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Oshogatsu 2: Tsurugaoka Hachimangu

On January 3rd, we went to Kamakura to visit some shrines and a temple.  First stop was Tsurugaoka Hachimangu (鶴岡八幡宮).  We had planned to get an omikuji (fortune) and a charm for the baby, but things didn’t go as planned.

On our way to the shrine, it was obvious that there were a lot of people that had the same idea as us.  We walked down the shopping street a bit, then decided to walk along Wakamiya Oji until we got to the shrine.

The main shopping street in Kamakura was very crowded.

At Wakamiya Oji, plenty of people posed for pictures next to one of the dog statues.

Wakamiya Oji was decorated with lanterns to celebrate the new year.

A close up of an old stone lantern.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu's San no Torii stands big as always.

The stone bridge that only the shogun was allowed to cross.

Looking pretty crowded, and there are plenty of yatai (food stands). It's like a festival.

Lots of yatai. My wife is in this picture, right of centre.

I waited in line for about 3 minutes. This is how many people were in front of us. Incredible!

At this point, we decided it would take far too long to wait.  There were several thousand people at the shrine, and it would probably take a couple hours or so of standing.  We had other places to go.  So, we decided to leave, and I got a couple of interesting pictures.

Lots of masks with famous characters, including Kitty, Pikachu and Power Rangers. There were many guards and police officers at the shrine.

There were guards dressed in red uniforms anywhere. Very bright. He wasn't posing for me in this picture.

I was surprised about how many guards in red there were.  But there were other guards wearing a standard dark blue uniform, as well.  We took a little break to have something to eat near one of the exits.  Unfortunately, my wife had an incident when I was in the restroom.  A little girl pushed her from behind, and when she turned to see who did that, the little girl’s parents were laughing at what she did.  My wife got angry at them, but that made them laugh even more.  Unbelievably rude!  They thought it was funny that their girl pushed a pregnant woman.  That soured the mood a bit.  Anyway, we decided to move on to our next destination, which I will show in part 3.  But first, a parting shot.

We left the shrine through this torii.

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Oshogatsu 1: The local shrine and temple

In Japan, one of the most important times of the year is the Japanese New Year, or Shogatsu.  This holiday period lasts from December 29th to January 4th, with January 1st being the most important day.  On this day, most families get together and visit while eating and drinking.  They often go to a temple or shrine to pray and wish for a good new year, often getting their fortune (omikuji) or charms.  Children receive money from relatives, which I guess is kind of like my usual Christmas.  People usually eat osechi, which is Japanese traditional New Year’s food.  I’m not particularly fond of it, though.  Extremely bland for the most part, and my wife doesn’t seem to like much of it, either.

However, this year’s New Year for us was nothing like last year’s.  Last year, we visited my wife’s family.  This year, due to the baby’s incorrect positioning and a visit to the clinic on January 1st, we went with shrines and temples.  We visited a lot of them!  For this post, I’m going to show you January 1st’s temple and shrine visits near our home.  Parts 2-5 will feature the four places we visited in Kamakura on January 3rd.

We first visited a small temple near the Hikichigawa river called Jishouin (自性院).  It was very quiet, with us being the only people there.  We didn’t stay long, but I took a few pictures.

This is the entrance to Jishouin.

On the right side, we see this.

Here's the main temple building. It's not impressively large, and doesn't seem busy at all.

Another temple building.

I guess we were somewhat disappointed.  We’d heard a bell ringing, so we thought this was the place, but while we were there, we heard the bell again.  We saw where it was coming from, across the river and up the hill.  So, we went to a shrine that we had no idea was even there!  Nice surprise!  What we found was Sawa Daimyoujin (佐波大明神).  There were people there!  We even bought a couple of fortunes (omikuji).  Mine was just okay.  Anyway, here are the pictures.

This is the entrance and torii to Sawa Daimyoujin. Plenty of lanterns were hanging for the New Year.

A closer look at the torii.

That's the main shrine building.

Getting a bit closer. It's open for the New Year's prayers.

After praying at the shrine, people were ringing this large bell. Wish I'd tried it.

These lights have been at many shrines during the New Year holidays.

That’s it for part 1.  Coming soon is part 2 of this Oshogatsu series.

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