Hatsumode and celebrating a new cultural tradition

Entry to the Futenma Shrine in Okinawa

One of the easiest and most fun ways to learn about another culture is to experience a holiday or tradition that is celebrated by that culture. For my family living here in Okinawa, we've started to embrace the Japanese tradition of Hatsumode, or the first shrine visit of the new year. Some buddhists visit temples in the first days of January while others who are Shinto go to local shrines. In either case, it's a time to pray for the coming year, buy your fortune to see what may be in store, and make wishes on omamori charms.

Entry Torii Gate at the Futenma Shrine
Stairs up to the Futenma Shrine
Omamori charms with new year wishes

Our family has visited a large temple for Hatsumode previously, and this year we chose to go to the Futenma Shrine to see if it was any different. In both cases, the lines were extremely long, and you only get a brief moment in the actual shrine or temple to make a donation and say a prayer. Before you can go into the shrine, you also need to cleanse your hands and mouth so they are pure. This is done so at a small water station at the front of the shrine. 

Cleansing with water before entering the shrine
Wooden Japanese architecture in the awning of the shrine
Wooden traditional Japanese architecture and hanging lanterns at the shrine

Photos are not allowed inside the shrine, but you can see the traditional wooden architecture from the entry awning. Once you finish your prayer inside, you can continue on to claim your fortune (omikuji) and tie it to the fence or tree outside depending on if it's a good or bad fortune. This is an important part of accepting your fortune for the year. This year each of us decided that the fortunes were pretty good, so we ended up tying them to fence and wishing for the best.

Omikuji fortunes tied to the fence at Futenma Shrine in Okinawa
Charm for the new year

This has been a really lovely new tradition for us to celebrate as a family. It has gotten us out into the local community to see how people here actually celebrate their tradition of Hatsumode. We've gotten to enjoy the temples and shrines in the area and see how each one is different and unique. Plus, this is now something we share as a family and look forward to in our start of the new year.

If you're interested in discovering a new cultural tradition with your own family, choose something that you can easily integrate into your schedule and even your location. It may just be about learning for you or you may choose to actually participate in the tradition and make it a regular occurrence for your family. Either way, it's a great way to share a new experience with your loved ones and broaden your horizons together.

Kristen KingComment