New Year’s Prayer – Hatsumōde [初詣]
Hatsumōde [初詣] is the first shrine or temple prayer / visit of the New Year. Many people perform Hatsumode on the 1-3 of the new year.
Charms and Amulets
All through the year shrine sells Omamori [charms and amulets], represent protection in specific circumstances such as passing exams, traffic safety, business success, safe trip, good relationship (in love), healthy pregnancy and easy delivery.
Many people buy new Omamori [Charms and Amulets] and return the old ones to the place called Furufuda Nassho [古札納所 / old charms collecting place ] during Hatsumōde.
Omamori are commonly replaced once a year as the power of those are thought to be temporary and also showing gratitude to god for protection or luck from the previous year. Omamori are always carried or displayed constantly in sight and should never opened to avoid losing protection capacities.
*Omamori [お守り] means protection.
Hamaya are very popular new year’s Omamori as lucky items [Engi Mono / 縁起物]. Hamaya have 2 powers that ward off evil and bring good fortune for the new year.
Eto Hamaya [干支破魔矢] come with Ema [wooden wishing plaques / 絵馬] with the animal of the year from 12 Zodiac Animals.
*Hamaya literally means evil destroying arrow.
Omikuji [written fortunes] are random fortunes written on strips of paper found at shrines and temples in Japan throughout the year. Many people draw Omikuji during Hatsumode to see how much luck there will be in the coming year.
If the prediction is bad, it is custom to tie Omikuji around the branches of trees or on ropes. (image top)
Fortune cookies are a derivative of Omikuji.
*Omikuji [おみくじ] means lottery.
Shūbun no Hi [秋分の日] – Autumnal Equinox Day
Autumnal Equinox Day in Japan comes around September 23rd, and is one of the Japanese national holidays.
Autumnal Equinox Day is also the middle day of Ohigan [お彼岸], the Buddhist ceremony week. During the week, people visit graves to pay respect to their ancestors.
Japanese term “Autumnal Equinox Day” is Shubun no Hi [秋分の日].
Ohagi & Botamochi – Sweet Rice Cakes
Sweet rice cakes are part of the Autumnal Equinox Day celebrations, apart from eating them, people are also offering the cakes to the altar.
Sweet rice cakes are made from sweet rice (glutinous rice), coated with sweet red beans paste [餡 / an], soy flour [きな粉 / kinako], grinded sesame [すりごま / surigoma] or green seaweed flakes [青のり / aonori].
There are two words used for Sweet rice cakes but their taste is almost identical.
Ohagi is eaten for Autumnal Equinox Day and named after an autumn flower, hagi [bush clover / 萩].
The shape of ohagi is inspired by the shape of bush clover and is covered with chunky sweet red beans paste [粒餡 / tsubuan], as red beans are harvested in autumn.
Botamochi is eaten for Vernal Equinox Day, in March and is named after a spring flower, botan [Peony / 牡丹].
The shape of botamochi is round like peony and is covered with smooth sweet red bean paste [漉し餡 / koshian] without bean skins.