Jan. 11, 2018 UPDATE

Happy New Year 2018! The first shrine visit of the year to Shimogamo Shrine to seek good luck!

The year 2018 has begun! Shimogamo Shrine is a famous first-shrine-visit-of-the-year spot, where you can pray for good luck for the New Year, and you also get to see a kemari ballgame show.
Vanessa[ Sharing Kyoto Staff ]

It is time to start a completely new year with a shrine visit, version 2018. It is time to head for the shrine to pray, eat some street food, see a kemari-show, and just have a good time! 


The first day of work in 2018 we started by wishing you all a happy New Year! Then we headed to Shimogamo Shrine to participate in the age-old Japanese tradition of hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the year. Of course, as Vanessa is already almost Japanese, she also wanted to take part in this tradition. 


So we took Keihan to Demachi Yanagi Station, from where it is a 5-minute walk to the entrance to Shimogamo Shrine. But January in Kyoto really is cold! 


There were many food stalls lining the path to the shrine, so I decided to enjoy some street food while I headed toward the shrine. 


Fried noodles are one of the most classic choices there were. The noodles have a nice amount of thick Japanese Worchester-like sauce on them and the ketchup on top crowns the thing. I especially like the sunny side up egg on top of the noodles. 


Next, I had some Kansai-style takoyaki, which is one of my favorite treats. Although as the takoyaki is made at the spot, you need to be careful when biting into it, so that you don’t burn your mouth. 


After eating both fried noodles and takoyaki I felt full, so it was time to keep going on. There were more and more people as we got closer to the main hall. Here you can see the stately sight of last year’s amulets and other protective things being burnt. 


Finally, we got to the main hall. This ballgame event, Kemari Hajime, only takes place once a year, so really many people go to see it. 


Kemari was a ballgame played by the court nobles in the Heian period, and it’s a little like today’s soccer. Everyone was trying to take pictures of the show. 


Because there were so many people I couldn’t get any pictures taken, but here’s one from before. There were so many people I felt a bit scared! I recommend going early if you want to be able to see the show well! 


After I got through the crowds, I went to pray in a smaller shrine by the main one. Clap your hands twice and pray for a nice year! 


Of course, you also have to try your luck with the fortune slips when on a hatsumode shrine visit. Close to the place where you can do this I saw the cutest bear of them all, Rilakkuma! I got so excited! 


You can get special fortune slips at Shimogamo Shrine. The text only appears when you steep the slips in water! One slip costs 300 yen, so of course, I had to test my luck. 


So you put the slip into the river flowing in front of you. It’s really exciting to think what your luck is going to be like. 


A little by little, blue characters start to appear on the slip. And this time mine was shokichi, small luck, so not too shabby. It says I need to be careful with money and that I should keep my purse-strings tight. And I wanted to go to the winter sales for a shopping spree! It looks like I need to tighten my budget. 


But then to another important shrine on the precincts of Shimogamo Shrine: Kawai Shrine! This shrine enshrines the most beautiful goddess in Japan, so I, of course, had to visit the shrine. 


The cute ema wooden amulets at this shrine are shaped like hand mirrors, and you can put “makeup” on them as you wish, and make them look like your ideal self. It was an interesting experience to look at these hand mirrors with all the different expressions. 


This brings to an end my 2018 hatsumode, but right when I was going to head back, it started to rain. As it felt even colder when it rained, I started to want to drink some amazake. Amazake is a sweet Japanese fermented rice drink that is low- or non-alcoholic. I had some ginger added to my cup, making my amazake a life-saver on this cold day. Kyoto really is cold! 


I have been to many shrines, whether it be when working or just when on a walk in Kyoto, but my first shrine visit of 2018 still felt different. I hope that many interesting things happen here at Sharing Kyoto in 2018, and I hope all the best for all of you, my dear readers, in 2018! 

A comment from the staff
Vanessa
The first day of work in 2018 we went to Shimogamo Shrine to pray for this year to be a successful one. This day happened to be January 4, when the Kemari Hajime ritual takes place at Shimogamo Shrine, so the shrine was overflowing with people. If you happen to be in Kyoto during this time, how about enjoying the shrine-culture of Japan for a bit?
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