Friday, January 04, 2008

Friday Flash..Hatsumode 2008 (part 1)

Hatsumode refers to the first visit you make to a Shinto shrine or a Buddhist temple each New Year.
Traditionally,Japanese people crowd such places en masse over the first few days of the New Year starting from midnight January 1st to pray for a good New Year.

The photo above shows the throngs waiting on January 1st at Osu Kannon.While it wasnt snowing,it was bitterly cold with an Arctic wind blowing into the well wrapped up masses.

As well as stalls selling the almost obligatory lucky charms in the temple courtyard, there were also the usual food stalls set up nearby.
Steam can be seen rising from the potato stand where the hot potatoes were literally selling like...

This okonomiyaki stand was also doing a brisk trade as customers formed a patient, orderly line as their meal was cooked.

Another staple like okonomiyaki, to be found at festivals and public events is the choco-banana.This was a steal,literally at 300yen each, but very hard to resist with a generous coating of chocolate.

The shot above shows a traditional New Years decoration called a kadamatsu.Translated literally it means gate pine.Again,like the shimekazari below,the design varies.It can be simply a twig of pine branches taped to a gate or as elaborate as the one above.Typically such decorations include pine,bamboo and ume or plum branches and sprigs which in turn represent longevity,prosperity and reliability.
The centrepiece of the kadamatsu is formed from three bamboo branches or shoots.Again according to traditional Japanese flower arranging each of these three branches are cut to different heights.They represent heaven,humanity and earth with heaven being the tallest and earth the shortest of the three.
These decorations are usually placed in pairs at either side of gates or the main entrances of businesses or homes for the first few days of the New Year.

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