New year @ Meiji Jingu
31 December 2006/1 January 2007
Best wishes for 2007 to everyone!
Read more about the new year card (Nengajoo) and other new-year-related things:
- New year celebration in Japan (Wikipedia)
- New year celebration in Japan (About.com)
- The chinese astrological meaning of the boar with the element fire (this year)
To enter the new year I wanted to go to the Meiji Jingu shrine. It is quite close, big and probably tokyo's nicest/best. Everybody thinks it is a very "good" shrine (whatever that may mean) but I was warned that it would be too busy and that I probably couldnt get in and that it might therefore not be nice after all. So I went early (I left home at 9, arrived a bit before 10) and there were only a few people yet...
At this moment there was probably more traffic police on the temple grounds than there were visitors...
around 22.00 there were a big group of scouts (and later a judo group) entering the temple and probably praying together. Later the scouts appeared to "guard" the fire places made in the middle of the big entrance roads through the park.
By 22.30 or so I think the inner temple area was "full". There was still plenty of space, kept free by the police for some unknown reason (maybe for safety in case of an emergency). There was also no pushing and pulling in the crowd, I think there would have been twice as many people in europe on the same area. Here however everything was neatly organised. after 10-15m of people or so, the police made a separation line. This line consists of some officers holding a ribbon and one with a sign, as you can see on the far right, with their hyper-cute logo and a message, probably asking you to wait there.
Just before 0.00 some police officers came up in the front. They have their faces protected, because people are all throwing coins over the fence towards the temple, especially at 0.00.
Then, just before 0.00 we heard some people outside the shrine count down. I was told that there were video screens there to see the inner shrine, maybe they showed the count down time there as wel... Anyway, at 0.00 they started to hit the big drum as you can see on this picture if you have good eyes. Supposedly 108 hits, but nobody awaited that I think.
As you can see the people in the front are already walking to the right, to leave the inner temple (after having thrown coins and praying). Now the idea of the police-lines every 10-15m became clear to me. Japanese organisedness on its best!
After the first batch of people having thrown their coins, prayers and taking some pictures...
everybody moved away and the next batch was guided to the front by an officer with a megaphone, and the officers holding the ribbon moving to the front slowly... (this is already the 3rd or 4th batch or so, as the gap became bigger, it shows better on the photo)
The officers guiding the previous batch walking back with the sign, ribbons and "group light with number"
Actually there was not much to see relating to the new year here. No big countdown, no big celebration, no fireworks (no fireworks anywhere by the way), no show. Only people watching TV on their mobiles while waiting, throwing coins when it was their turn, and walking away. However, the whole organisation and the fact that you can normally not visit the shrine/park at night made it a quite interesting experience still.
Sales of special arrows and other new-year-celebration things
You can normally write a wish on a piece of paper to be tied on a tree or line, or, like here, on a piece of wood that will be hung around a tree. The most interresting thing however is the man behind the desk at the right. Underneath the huge "piece of wood-sign" he was advertising the pieces of wood! (You have to buy them.)
Scouts guarding the fire places
Entrance/Exit torii of the Meiji Jingu park.