I dragged Emily through Kojo Park during a snowstorm this afternoon. I didn't mean to make her go during a snowstorm, it just happened to start snowing a few minutes after we left the rabbit hutch.
The snow was unlike any snow that I have ever seen before. It wasn't made up of gently falling snowflakes, it was made up of snow pellets. The pellets weren't sleet; I know what that looks like. It was like billions of little miniature snowballs being dropped from the sky. They were sticky, too. They stuck all over my Red Sox hat and fleece jacket.
There was a downright stampede of people walking through the park today. We thought that it might be some holiday and that people were just out enjoying the pretty snow (ahem, blizzard), but when we did a little investigating we found out that people were still celebrating the New Year. The New Year's celebrations last from January 1-3. Man, these people really know how to party.
The people also weren't simply out in the cold enjoying the seasons. They were visiting the temple in the center of the park. It turns out that part of any New Year's celebrations must include a visit to a local shrine. Everybody does it every year.
I'm not going to pretend that I have any clue as to what was going on, but to the foreigner, it looks like they just go up to the shrine, throw some money in a bucket, clap their hands twice, and then say a prayer with their eyes closed and hands in the praying position. I think you are supposed to pray for a good year or something.
Then they go over to a booth selling omikuji, which are either prayers, wishes, or fortunes, depending on who you ask, which are written on little white pieces of paper. You take the omikuji and tie it to a tree or a string or a post somewhere inside the temple.
There was also some bridal thing going on inside the shrine (don't know what all that was about) and there was a little outdoor food market on one of the small streets inside the park. They were selling different types of little pastries. We bought two shaped like fish that were filled with sweet beans. Yum! Emily joked that it was probably the only fish snack in Japan not made with any fish.
So Emily and I did the traditional act of visiting a temple at the beginning of a new year. Good for us. I hope it works.