Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Years in Japan: Hatsumoude

I went home for the holidays this year, and had a wonderful vacation with my family and friends in Portland, Oregon. I also got to meet my nephew James for the first time! For those who don't know, James was supposed to be born on December 29th, just in time for me to see him when I came home. Instead, he was born about 3 months early, in September. It's been tough living so far away from my family during all that, so it was really great to finally be there and see him! He was in the hospital until right after I returned to Japan; he's at home now with his mom, my sister Rose.

We always say, "Families that cosplay together, stay together."
 While in Portland, I spent most of my time at the hospital with James, but I also went out to eat at many good Portland restaurants, spent lots of time at Powell's books, had a little cosplay outing (scroll down to the post about this year's Santa Photo), and took a day trip to Hood River Valley. Hood River is a very scenic area, with views of several large mountains and lots of orchards and rivers. It's one of my favorite places in Oregon, and it was fun to go there for the day and play in the snow. 

Mt. Hood
Hood River Valley, Oregon
Rose, Teal and I also took a day trip up to Seattle to see the Harry Potter Exhibition, held in the park by the Space Needle. Sadly, no photos were allowed, but it was a fantastic exhibit. There were many costumes, props, etc. on display which we, as huge Potter nerds, spent about 3 hours total drooling over. 

The only unfortunate thing about my trip was that I missed New Years in Japan. I was lucky enough to spend last New Years with a Japanese/American family I know in Oregon, and it was a really amazing experience. For Americans, New Years is about going out to party with your friends, drinking way too much, and sleeping off your hangover the next day. Possibly watching football, if you're into that kind of thing (I'm not). 

In Japan, it's traditional to spend New Years at home with family. There are many kinds of traditional New Years foods, called osechi ryori. You can also play traditional games like karuta, a card game where you try to be the first to grab a specific haiku. 

Another important tradition is hatsumode, or the first visit to a shrine of the new year. This can really happen anytime, but most people go within the first few days of the year. Generally you go, wait in line to pray at the shrine and leave some money, and maybe buy a new omamori (protection charm). Many people also buy omikuji (fortunes written on small pieces of paper). 

Meiji Shrine in Harajuku
When I got back to Japan, I stayed in Tokyo for a day in order to visit my friend Megumi. While I was there, we went to the Meiji Shrine in Harajuku. It was packed with people, so Megumi didn't wait in line to pray. Instead we took some photos and bought omikuji. According to Wikipedia (trusted source of unquestionable information that it is), the Meiji Shrine had 3.45 million visitors in 1998. I don't know how many there were this year, but I'm guessing a lot.

The crowd lining up to pray at the shrine.
Happy 2011!


  1. And you wore the Shojo Mafia shirt!

  2. Of course! We're gonna start a Shojo Mafia shirts around the world photo collection.