To all, as another year passes. I spent my New Year’s Day in Tokyo, starting with a fire-exorcism at my local temple at the crack of dawn. Photography is not permitted during the ritual, but here is a photo of the incense burner, or more like a cauldron, at the entrance to the temple – you put your incense in the pile and waft smoke over your affected or peccant organ that you feel needs divine intervention.
First pilgrimage of the year (hatsumoude) is a fairly serious business here in Japan, and at my local temple a great number of food stalls and hawkers take advantage of the crowds and set up shop all around the neighbourhood. There is certainly a carnival atmosphere, with the more dedicated souls drinking all night at the various o-den or yakitori stalls till the First (already one ambulance was being loaded with a man loudly protesting he was fine, absolutely fine, just as we arrived). In my advancing years I like to go there early in the morning before the crowds pour in, which means a 6am or so start, hardly early for an angler. Even so, at this time of the morning there are plenty of stalls happy to sell you snacks and shochu mixers and beer or hot sake, perfect for the winter cold. There is clearly some message in a religion that welcomes all-comers regardless and lets you drink as much alcohol as you want during your pilgrimage, and makes no restrictions on the foods you can eat. I went for atsukan sake, some yakitori and yakisoba although in the food line there was literally everything on sale from the standard such as spun sugar, okonomiyaki or yakitori, to the absurd: doner kebabs, whole baked potatoes and bananas dipped in icing sugar.
At the fire temple, almost anything can be blessed, for a fee (I’ve seen cars, handbags and shoes being done) by the sacred fire. However, it is only the shinto shrine next-door that sells magical amulets to keep you safe while fishing, so I thought I should buy some of these. One goes on my tackle bag and the other on my lifejacket.
Anyway, thank you for reading my blog over the years, and I hope you have safe travels and many great catches at sea in 2014!