Sunday, January 4

Kyoto for Omisoka, Vol. 1: Yasaka Jinja

Miyako no Fuyu no Tabi
From Ena to Kyoto

My good friend, Yasuko, invited me once again to Kyoto, this time to celebrate the New Year, Oshogatsu, with her and her sister, Sachiko. Of course I accepted.

From the Shinkansen

I arranged it so that I had some extra time at Nagoya Station to get some Starbucks (in my new 2009 tumbler... for free) and poke around for a couple other things. Like my new Ushi-doshi Kitty-chan!

Ushi-doshi Kitty
Atop a stack of mochi for ozoni.

Toshi-koshi Soba and Then Some
Sachiko lays out our delicious New Year's Eve (Omisoka) dinner

As Yasuko and Sachiko were coming back from visiting their parents in Kanazawa, I met them at the station - after being accosted by a man claiming to be a professor, and to having written a dictionary. He had me proofread a couple pages before that saving call from Yasuko (we're here!).

After our yummy dinner, we hopped a bus to Gion.

Our first stop was Yasaka Jinja. Fortunately we got there early, ahead of all the crowds, and were able to do some Omisoka stuff without waiting in ridiculous lines.

Yasaka Jinja's main entrance, lit up for the New Year

Bowing in the New Year
Many folks, women and men alike, wear kimono to do hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the year. This lady was either bowing out of respect to the shrine or to greet someone she knew.

What's your pleasure?
All the staples were there: takoyaki, candy apples, yakisoba, festival games, etc., etc., etc..

And of course stands specifically for New Year's traditions.

The daruma is for granting a wish. When you make the wish, you paint in the left eye. Once it has come true, you paint in the right one.

Okera is made from the root of a plant originally used for medicinal purposes. At Okera-mairi, a tradition specific to Yasaka Jinja, one end is fed into the flame at the shrine, and kept alit by swinging it until getting home. There it was traditionally used to light the first hearth fire of the new year.

2009 is the year of the cow, so ushi-doshi decorations were in full supply.

Calendar Girls
The New Year wouldn't be complete without a new calendar. Here, all kinds of girls grace 2009's calendars.

Hamaya and Ema
And everything else you need for Hatsumode.

Especially Big Ema
At any time of year wishes are written on the back of ema and hung up at the shrine for the gods to read. Some are specific to the shrine, like these, or have other themes.

Making a Wish

People gather around the lanterns to light their ropes or burn gomagi.

Before Yasuko went to write a wish on a stick of gomagi, we jumped in line for some okerazake - very sweet and very delicious warm sake just for this occasion. It was served by men in white from big copper ladles onto small white dishes which the toasters could keep as a souvenir. (Mine's still in my bag. Sorry, no picture.) All for the low-low price of whatever you want to donate.

Lighting Gomagi
Before tossing this stick in the flame, a wish for the New Year is written on it.

Literally meaning "bear paw", kumade are supposed to rake in good luck for the New Year. I believe these kumade are decorated with some of the seven lucky gods of the Takarabune - treasure ship.

Hamaya and Ema
An "evil-repelling arrow", hamaya are purchased or given to bring good luck for the coming year.

With all the crowds, the Yasaka grounds are a one-way street.
This is the way "home".

Next up: Chionin and Heian Jingu


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