Ringing in the New Year

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At midnight, we joined the parade of neighbours and worshippers at Denzuin temple and payed our respects. It is a beautiful temple, very rich and recently renovated. Outside there were festival booths selling warm foods and drink.  One sold a lucky opportunities to ring the giant bell. The bell started ringing at midnight, pulled 108 times to clear away sins. Inside the temple, the side altars glowed golden and in front of the main altar, the monks chanted, prayed and played music on a reed pipe and drum. As Tod & I approached the donation box, the photographer pointed his camera at us, of course. Foreigners at the temple. I just chucked in my coins, clapped twice, bowed my head and said hello to the deities. 

Bunkyo-ku is chockablock with temples and shrines, so we usually do a double hatsumode by simply stopping into Daikokuten shrine, right next to Denzuin. They always give out little bowls of tonjiru as a boy scout community project. One of Tod's coworkers lives nearby and was just leaving as we approached. We greeted him and his partner, then lined up to greet the kamisama. It was fun to watch how people approached the ringing of the gong: two aggressive bangs, an uncertain waggle, one good knock, a creaky swing that somehow failed to hit. As we ate our soup, the wind started to pick up but we decided to visit one more shrine before going home.

The Inari Jinja is where we attended a blessing ceremony of a venerable tree last year. It's a favorite of ours, especially its tiny but secluded wooded that winds around the side of the shrine and has multiple minature fox shirines along the path. There was a good line of people waiting to pray and even more taking off their shoes and crowding into the shrine to hear the monks. This is another reason I love this place - it bustles with everyday life rather than formality. The wind had really picked up by this time and the tree branches lit from below were swinging wildly above us. It was beautiful. We stopped on the way out for a bowl of toshikoshi soba  - a gift from the local soba shop.They make the best inari zushi and I am sure it is because this fox temple blesses them.

Here's to a well-blessed year ahead.

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