Happy New Year! As you’re celebrating the start of 2015 (hopefully with some great food and better company!) we’re sure that some of you are interested in how the New Year is celebrated in the birthplace of anime—Japan! In celebration of the New Year, here’s a little cultural snapshot of one of Japan’s most famous shrines and a major spot for New Year’s visits, with the help of the anime Inari Kon Kon.
The New Year is of course about new beginnings, and probably the most prominent tradition is hatsumode, or the first shrine visit of the year. Although Japanese New Year was originally celebrated on the lunar new year (as in China or other East Asian countries), it’s currently celebrated on January 1. Over the evening of New Year’s Eve and the first three days of January, visitors flock to Shinto shrines to pray for the coming year, get their fortunes told, or purchase omamori charms for good luck.
Fushimi Inari, one of the most prominent shrines in Japan’s former capital of Kyoto, is just one such location for this annual pilgrimage. It’s also the inspiration for the anime Inari Kon Kon (the main character Inari is named for the shrine itself), and you can see Inari Kon Kon-related promotions at the shrine’s location today (Thanks to Twitter user @magicalemi for all the gorgeous Fushimi Inari pics!)
You can even purchase actual Inari Kon Kon charms at Fushimi Inari! So cute!
Fushimi Inari sees some approximately 2.7 million visitors during the first three days of January alone, making it one of the biggest hatsumode spots in all of Japan—and it’s no wonder. This is one gorgeous shrine.
The beautiful shrine itself is known for two major sights—the torii and foxes. Torii are the traditional Japanese gates associated with Shinto shrines, and Fushimi Inari has thousands of vermillion structures lining a long system of paths. They’re breathtaking in more ways than one—walking through them takes several hours, although it’s certainly an unforgettable experience.
The other famous symbol at Fushimi Inari is the fox, which is why the goddess Uka in Inari Kon Kon has her legion of adorable fox familiars. Foxes are the messengers of the gods, so there’s tons of foxy paraphernalia on-site and available as souvenirs at Fushimi Inari. Visitors can even draw on fox charms to adorn the shrine!
Aside from the shrine visit, Japanese New Year’s has a ton of other traditions as well, from sending greetings and gifts, traditional games like karuta, watching special New Year’s programs on TV, and of course, food. It’s customary to eat a variety of foods, including mochi rice cakes (we posted a recipe tutorial for that before!) and soba noodles, whose length signifies longevity.
To learn more about hatsumode, Japanese New Years, and Fushimi Inari shrine, check out some of the links below! Happy New Year! You can also watch Inari Kon Kon in Japanese with English subtitles now at http://funimation.com/inari-kon-kon.