Happy New Year! Here’s to more inspiring and delicious times. Let’s start things off with one of the most beautiful customs in Asia: Hatsumode, the tradition of visiting a Shinto shrine in Japan. During the New Year, crowds of people go to pray at these holy sites for all the good things in life, including health, successful studies, smooth pregnancies, everlasting love, and even traffic safety. Vendors of all kinds set up around the shrines as well, adding a festive atmosphere of hope and happiness with many yummy snacks.
Hatsumode actually began in the mid-Meiji period about a century ago, thanks to the advent of mass transportation. Before that, shrine visits were often difficult due to the distance, and only the most devout pilgrims would set upon the journey. People used to stay home on New Year’s Eve till the morning, waiting to meet Toshikamisama or the God of New Year – a tradition called Toshikomori. However, Hatsumode had long replaced this auspicious custom, as people could now easily travel to the shrines to receive joy and luck directly from the gods.