After praying in front of the shrine, one can purchase an omikuji or fortune. Most people tie their fortunes on a tree, as you see my friend Toshiko Morimoto doing here, so that it can be blessed by the Shinto gods.
Many people also buy omamori or lucky charms and hamaya or lucky arrows (see other photos).
People also purchase wooden votive plaques or ema on which they write their wish for the coming year. I bought a board with my Chinese Zodiac sign the Year of the Monkey and wrote a wish for world peace.
Its common to find wishes for passing the entrance exams to high schools and universities or to gain the love of a boyfriend or girlfriend. In 2004, good wishes for the Self Defense Troops going to the Middle East could also be seen.
Its surprising for many first-time non-Japanese visitors to the shrine to see the number of stalls on the path leading up to the shrine selling all kinds of snacks and trinkets. Grilled octopus is one of the special treats that tastes good on a cold New Years day.
Crepes have become a recent popular treat. Also, cotton candy comes in colorful decorated bags for children, but adults enjoy it as well.
See more details about New Year's customs at Monthly Events in Sapporo.
For an excellent detailed explanation about visiting Shinto shrines, including photographs and vocabulary, see the http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/shrine-guide.shtml.
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