(three pictures are from the website)So this year too, my family visited one of the big shrines downtown in the first morning of the year. We passed the tall shrine archway at the entrance, which meant that we stepped into the sacred area. Usually the path which is covered with pebbles leads to the inner shrine where we make our respects to the shinto god.
In front of the altar, we make some donations by throwing some coins into the large alms box and now it's time for praying and making some wishes!
Every year I never forget to pray for happiness and good health for my family and make some more extra wishes such as "Let me accomplish my desire to lose my weight this year" or "Please let my husband and I have lots of fun together."------making endless wishes until I hear my husband laughing "How can you be so greedy with a small donation? Let's go."
Along the side way, some free hot drinks such as sweet rice wine and specially sacred rice wine are provided. Sweet rice wine is my favorite. It's so good to have such a rich drink of very mild alcohol on a wintry day.
Along the way, we enjoyed drawing fortune lots. We made a small donation and got each fortune told on a small stripe of paper. It was really fun and thrilling until I opened the folded small paper to find a largest letter which described the general luck of the year. Here you see the "omikuji(fortune lots)" I drew that day in the above picture, it said "Chu-kichi," which means "middle blessing" out of 7 or 12 levels. Great! "Chu-kichi" is the top second. My daughter got "Kichi," which means just"Blessing." It's still lucky enough. We both kept them in each bag and brought these good blessings back home with us. If we got results of less blessings, then we were supposed to tie these stripes of paper to a tree or a wall of metal wires so that bad fortunes would remain in the temple or shrine grounds. In general we just enjoy this for fun. Even if I get a bad luck, I just take it for a good reminder that I will be able to make this new year much luckier if I take care of things a little more attentively.