Instead of loud, midnight aerial fireworks and music, dancing,
and drinking parties, it has been a Japanese cultural and religious
tradition to visit a Shinto shrine with friends or family after
midnight on the first day January. The fact that in Japan more
than three million people pray at the Meiji Shrine, one of
the famous shrines, on New Year’s Day suggests that many
Japanese feel there is no more exhilarating experience (www.excite.co.jp/season/2003/newyear/).
New Year’s Day is one of the (best) opportunities to
know what Shinto is,” said Daiya Amano, the head priest
of Hawai‘i Izumo Shinto Shrine since 1983.
At the Hawai‘i Izumo Shinto Shrine, many private family
services were held during the first few weeks of the year.
The shrine is a major Japanese-American religious landmark,
according to Richard T. Miyao, executive director of the Izumo
Shrine Mission of Hawai‘i and editor-in-chief and one
of the authors of Saga of a Church in Hawai‘i.
The main purpose of New Year’s visits, traditionally
is to express gratitude for the past. Even though, today, many
young Japanese men take women on dates to visit shrines (afterward
enjoying karaoke and computer games, dancing, or partying)
the visit is still essentially spiritual experience.
Called, hatsumoude, for “first visit,” the New Year service includes
rites of purification and blessing, bestowed when the priest’s assistant
waves a wooden wand with white paper signifying a spiritual wiping clean of the
slate of the past so one can begin anew. The priests pray that life hereafter
may be blessed with a renewed promise and the hope for health and well-being
of the visitors and their families, many of whom purchase good luck charms for