We visited Inaba Jinja, which is the biggest and most famous shrine in Gifu City. Inaba Jinja or Inaba Shrine (伊奈波神社) was founded in 85 AD, so has a history of over 1900 years. It is a pretty special place to welcome in the New Year or visit for hatsumode.
|Inaba Shrine in Gifu City|
The crowds weren't too bad for New Year’s and we managed to do everything we wanted to do in around 90 minutes. The shrine had a fun festival atmosphere about it with the street vendors out in force, selling all kinds of Japanese festival food. The people around us were in a great festive mode as well and everyone was polite while paying their respects for hatsumode.
|Street Vendors at Inaba Shrine|
Here are some of the common customs done at hatsumode:
Upon reaching the main shrine, a common custom is osaisen (賽銭), which is money offered to the gods for good luck. Simply throw a small coin like a 5 or 10 yen coin (5 yen is best) into the saisen-bako (賽銭箱) donation box, bow twice, clap twice, then pray to the gods for a happy and prosperous New Year.
|Osaisen at the main shrine|
Another common custom for hatsumode is to buy an omikuji, which is a fortune written on a small piece of paper. These cost 100 yen and can be purchased from many different locations around the shrine. There are typically twelve different kinds of fortune you can receive, but don’t worry! If your omikuji predicts bad luck, simply tie it onto the special rack or tree on the shrine grounds. This will ensure that the prediction will not come true. This year, I received Dai-kichi (大吉) ~ Great Blessing, which is the luckiest omikuji you can receive. Yatta!
|Omikuji at Inaba Shrine|
|Yatta! I was lucky to get Dai-kichi ~ Great Blessing!|
A popular item sold during the New Year at Shinto shrines is a hamaya. It is a special good luck charm that is traditionally only available during the first few days of the year. A hamaya is basically a decorative wooden arrow sold at shrines to ward off misfortune and attract good luck. They are sometimes called “demon-breaking arrows”. Each shrine has its own unique design and they make a very cool decoration for your genkan (entrance at home) or souvenir. Traditionally, the custom was to place the hamaya at the north-east and south-west corners of the house, which were the most susceptible to evil influences. This year is the Year of the Horse, so hamaya will feature an ema with a horse.
|Hamaya at Inaba Shrine|
Amazake (甘酒) is a traditional sweet Japanese sake usually drunk to celebrate a special occasion such as the New Year. We finished off our hatsumode visit to Inaba Shrine with a cup of steaming hot amazake by the bon-fire. It was a great visit and we hope that 2014 will be a great year for Japan Australia and all our friends and followers.
|Welcome to the New Year at Inaba Shrine|
|Hatsumode at Inaba Shrine in Gifu|