On one of the first days in the new year people in Japan traditionally go to a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple to pray, buy good luck charms for the next year, and burn the good luck charms they bought the year before. This visit is called hatsumōde. Two popular places in Fukuyama for hatsumōde are the Fukuyama Hachiman Shrine and Kusadoinari Shrine. So many people visit these shrines in the first few days of the new year that the parking is crazy and there are long lines to buy fortunes and charms.
Since we don't go to the shrine to pray or buy fortunes we don't bother fighting the crowds and instead walk over to our little neighbourhood shrine on the nearby hill. It is about a five minute walk and the kids love adventuring over the semi-neglected, bamboo covered hilltop.
|Fukuyama Hachiman Shrine|
|On our way up the hillside|
Dustin, the caveman that he is, was instantly drawn to this bonfire burning off to the side of the shrine. The men there were burning all of the old woven grass ropes that decorated the shrine since last New Year's Day.
The boys helped the men with their fire for half an hour or so and then we headed back down the hill.
Later in that day, our neighbour brought by a branch of nanten covered in red berries. This small bush grows just about everywhere in Japan and is often used in New Year's decorations. Here is Bosco and the nanten wishing you all a very happy Year of the Sheep!