As the year of the monkey becomes the year of the rooster, KyoTours wants to wish you a very happy new year holiday. We had a great 2016, and the new year is already shaping up to be a great one. あけましておめでとうございます！ Happy New Year!
This year, our New Year's Eve was fairly traditional. Other cities in Japan do fireworks or have public parties, but Kyoto remains pretty quiet. We ate toshikoshi soba noodles for good fortune - a must on this auspicious night - and watched all of the special programs on TV. This is a big part of New Year's in Japan, with some very highly anticipated shows featuring comedians, singing competitions, classical concerts, and traditional performances. New Year's Even in the west is all about partying and drinking, but it's more focused on spending time with family at home gathered around the TV in Japan.
At midnight, the national broadcaster NHK shows a few minutes of quiet footage of temple bells being rung out at various locations throughout the country. This meant it was time to go ring a bell for ourselves! We rushed over to our local Buddhist temple and took part in the bell ringing ceremony, adding our own ring to the 108 total that the temples sound out to purify us of the 108 sufferings of this life.
After that, it was time for hatsumode, the first visit to a Shinto shrine in the new year. Jonangu Shrine in south Kyoto was very busy with locals celebrating and lining up to pray, drink free sake, and buy charms to hang in their houses for good luck in the coming year. It was a very festive atmosphere, but also still rather solemn at the same time.
Visitors also draw random paper fortunes called omikuji. I received a very lucky fortune... 大大吉. This means "big big luck" and is quite rare. Most shrines cap their fortunes at "big luck," and only 11 shrines in the whole country feature an additional level. I guess this means big things are in store for KyoTours in 2017! Hope you can join KyoTours Japan for a fun and interesting tour in Kyoto this year.
See you in Kyoto in 2017!