Tokyo's Meiji Jingu Shrine was a hub of New Year's Day religious activity. Located in sprawling, wooded 170-acre grounds, the Shrine is accessed via grand avenues of trees that form a complete canopy over the paths.
Dappled sunlight from a brilliant, crisp blue winter sky played over the thousands who thronged the ways to the shrine. The Shrine is accessible from three directions, the main one being the south gate (see above).
The courtyard of the Shrine, while crowded, was not quite as much of a hubbub as the experience of just getting inside suggested. The crowd was concentrated in front of the Shrine, watched over by very conspicuous security as hundreds of coins were flung moment by moment into the big wooden receptacles and hands were clasped in prayer for a year of health and good fortune.
Outside the Shrine, there were stalls selling amulets, most of them featuring the rat, which is the Chinese zodiac animal for this year. There was also, of course, the omikuji, or sacred lots, that people drew, read, and then tied to the clothes line-like structures nearby (see above).
After 20 minutes or so of looking around and taking photos, I wandered on to Yoyogi Park, which forms part of the same grounds, and lay down in the unusually quiet park for an hour under the warmth of the diamond white sun. It sure felt like the first day of a happy new year!
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