Japan: "Hatsu-mode" - First visit to the shrine @ Yasukuni. In the middle of Tokyo.
"Hatsumode" is a term we use in Japan when we visit the shrine for the first time in the New Year.
People start lining up at to pray for a good New Year even before the countdown. Many people go during the day of the 1st. If not, the day after. The good part about going on the 1st or the 2nd is that you get to enjoy all the food stands. If you go later on, those stands may be closed but you won't have to suffer the massive crowd.
This year I went to Yasukuni shrine located in the middle of Tokyo, right by the emperor's palace. We went on the 5th so the crowd was gone and luckily all the food stands were still there.
"E-ma" (絵馬) - When you go to pray to the shrine or when your wishes have come true, you give the "ema" to the shrine to show your appreciation.
In the Nara period, people considered horses animals which the gods used for transport. However, since horses were expensive, people started to draw horses on the wooden boards instead to give to the shrines. Now, we not only draw horses, we can draw other animals too. This year, since it is the year of the horse, the photographs show all horses.
People were bowing before entering the shrine and when leaving the shrine too.
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