Happy 2012!!

I wish all of you Happy New Year 2012 filled with inspiration, love and laughter!!
The New Year is a good chance to make your resolutions.
I'm making a list of this year's resolutions and what I like to do this year!

I spent very traditional New Year holidays.
I went to Yasukuni Shrine.


It was my first time to visit this shrine at New Year's Day.
Most Japanese visit a shrine or temple for the first 3 days of the New Year to pray for the happiness and health of the year.
Therefore, all the major temples and shrines are unbelievably crowded.


It was the line to approach to the offertory box.
Yes! It was a long way! But compared to other temples and shrines, the line was much shorter.
It's because this shrine is a controversial shine according to our history.


This is a chrysanthemum flower with 16 pedals, which is a family crest or emblem for our Emperor.
This emblem can be used only by the Emperor.
We don't have a state religion after WW2.
But until WW2, Shinto was a state religion and according to Shinto, our emperor was considered to be a living God.
Under the name of the Emperor, many fought and died.

Have you ever seen a movie, Letters from Iwo Jima?
In this movie, soldiers committed suicide by a grenade, shouting `Let's meet at Yasukuni Shrine.'
Actually, this part wasn't translated properly in English.
This shrine was the place they believed their soul would come back after they died.
Yasukuni Shrine WAS a state shrine until WW2 and the soul of people who died for the wars were enshrined here.

I said `controversial shrine' because some Asian couturiers don't like or hate this shrine.
August 15th is the day of the end of WW2 and whenever our Prime Minister visits this shrine, our government receives many criticisms.
I'll stop talking about this shrine now.
It is not the history lesson.
I know and understand many opinions.

Based on these ideas, less people visit this shrine.
So I decided to visit here especially after last year's disasters.
Personally, I feel this shrine is our shrine although this receives so many criticisms.
I wanted to pray for the recovery from disasters, and the happiness and prosperity for our land, Japan.


Before joining the line, I washed my hands and rinsed my mouth,  which is a proper way before visiting a main edifice.


This is Torii Gate, which is a barrier against evil spirit.
Almost at the main edifice!


We can't enter inside.
The proper way to pray,
throw money, bow twice, clap hands twice, pray and bow again.


After praying, we buy talismans.
A variety of talismans are sold depending on our wishes like health, success, safe-driving, easy-delivery, matchmaking...etc.


I wrote my wishes on Ema, a votive picture tablet.
Those tablets are burnt by fire to make our wishes come true.
One of my wishes I wrote was, `Japan should be covered with much love and rejuvenated.'


This structure was behind the main edifice.
There was less people and it was quiet.
A pair of bamboos is a New Year decoration, called `Kadomatsu'.
They are landmark to show this place is ready to welcome God or deities.


This is another New Year decoration at my house entrance to welcome God or deities.

After I visited the shrine, I was looking for what I would eat.
There were many food stands.

caramel popcorn stand
seafood and sake stand

Tako-yaki stand, a kind of octopus dumpling 

Okonomi-yaki stand, Japanese pancake

I tried this Okonomi-yaki.
It was like pancake made of cabbage, wheat, egg and meat.
It was very good!

Maneki-neko stand, a good-luck cat
Daruma stand

This Daruma doll doesn't have eyeballs.
When you make a wish, you black one eyeball.
When your wish came true, you can black the other eyeball.

It was a very good start of 2012.
I got a fortune telling paper.
When I decide to get a fortune paper, I always ask the god of a shire to give me a message in advance while I was praying.
This is the answer to my prayer.


It says,
People gather in front of God.
They sit in a circle and enjoy singing.
Their hearts are modest, peaceful, and are communicated and united.
Peace is born and a strong-will for tomorrow is rejuvenated.

The other side of the paper tells me more details.
Everything is very good.

A fortune telling paper is supposed to be tied at a certain place of a shrine or temple to make good fortune stay good and bad become good.
But I prefer keeping it to remind myself.

I hope you also had a very good start of 2012!!