Japan has a lot of annual events, but “Hatsumode (初詣)” is one of the most important events in Japan. In Japan, people usually stay with the family around the New Year time. And when it comes to the beginning of the year, people go out to visit the nearby shrine or temple with the family or friends. We call it “Hatsumode （初詣）”, meaning “visiting at the beginning of a year” to thank for the last year and to prey for the safety for the coming year. (Also referred to as “Joya-mode (除夜詣)” that you worship at temples and shrines before New Year’s Eve)
Well then, let’s take a look at how the local people visit the shrine for the “Hatsumode”. This time, I visited Gokoku-shrine (護国神社), located just next to the Ohori park (大濠公園) in Fukuoka.
Visiting shrine at the New Year
There was a huge “Torii (鳥居)” at the entrance of the shrine. This is an easy way to recognize whether it is a temple or a shrine in Japan. Shrines usually have “Torii” like the photo below. (temples rarely have Torii)
There were some stalls along the way to the shrine. We call those stalls as “Tekiya” (的屋). They sell foods, toys and souvenirs, and some of them provide booth game. Tekiya are always found in the festivals or special events.
This is called Cho-zu-ya (手水舎). It’s placed in the same area of shrine. People do the ritual cleanse of hands and mouth here before worship to the God. For the use of this ‘Cho-zu-ya’, read “One day trip for Dazaifu and Yanagawa! (Part 2) “. (middle of page)
There was a long line to the Haiden(拝殿-hall of worship).
The manner of prayer at the shrine
The manner of prayer at the shrine is a little different from the way at the temple. Make a slight bowing before you start. Firstly, put some coins into Saisenbako (賽銭箱-offertory box). Secondly, ring the bell if it is placed in front of offertory box. Thirdly, make bowing twice , clapping twice and make Gassho (合掌) in front of your chest and then make your wish. (Gassho means to put hands together). lastly, make one more deep bowing before you leave.
Offertory box. Please remember that the amount is not important and also throw coins gently.
Sacred lot (Omikuji)
There are some goods selling in precinct. The most common goods at shrines are Omamori (お守り-charm), Ema (絵馬-make wishes on wooden plate), Omikuji (おみくじ-sacred lot).
I decided to buy a sacred lot. Omikuji (sacred lot) tells our luck by Dai-kichi (大吉-Great good luck), Kichi (吉-Good luck), Chu-kichi (中吉-Average good luck), Syo-kichi (小吉-small luck), Sue-kichi (末吉-Late good luck), Kyo (凶-Bad luck), and Dai-kyo(大凶-Great bad luck).
This time I got Chu-kichi (中吉-Average good luck).
There was a tiny lucky charm in the Omikuji. (It does not mean that enclosed in Omikuji of anywhere in the shrine)
It usually tied up and leaves this paper on the place that provided in the precinct. Of course you can bring it back if you like.
Found Omikuji in English. Shrine has become international.
Fukuoka Gokoku Shrine information
Opening hours: 9:00 – 17:00
Address: 1 Chome-1-1 Ropponmatsu Chuoku Fukuoka city 810-0044
Access: By Nishitetsu bus
From JR Hakata station– Take a bus from Hakata bus terminal (博多駅バスターミナル). 1F No.4 platform: Bus No.12,113,114,200,201,202,203,204, get off at Gokokujinjya-mae bus stop (護国神社前). Or No.3 platform: Bus No.13, get off at NHK-hoso–senta-iriguchi (NHK放送センター入り口).
From Nishitetsu Tenjin station– Take a bus from Tenjin-Kegojinjya-Mitsukoshi-mae (天神警固神社・三越前), bus No.6,7,113,114,200,201,202,203,204,205, get off at Gokokujinjya-mae bus stop (護国神社前). Or bus No.6-1, get off at NHK-hoso–senta-iriguchi (NHK放送センター入り口).
By Subway: Take Airport line (地下鉄空港線), get off at Ohori-park station (大濠公園駅), exit No.3 and 6, walk 15 min. Or take Nanakuma line (地下鉄七隈線), get off at Ropponmatsu station (六本松駅), exit No.2, walk 8 min.
Link: Gokoku shrine official web site (in Japanese only)