Looking for a fun New Year’s activity? Look no further than the Daruma Doll Festival, in nearby Akishima. A visit to a shrine, within the first few days of the new year, is very important aspect of Japanese culture, known as hatsumode.
The lines to get to the front of the shrine will be very long, but we bypassed the line and had a great time wandering the festival. Daruma is a good luck doll for the upcoming year. You buy a new Daruma doll each year (there were many to choose from of all sizes), and color in one eye when you make your wish. If your wish comes true during the year, you color in the other eye.
You bring last year’s Daruma to throw in the fire, which is part of the Japanese approach to the new year, “out with the old, in with the new”.
Also look for the kabura-ya, or arrow with a “turnip” shaped tip, for a fun souvenir. These are modeled after arrows that the samurai used, to attach messages to and shoot them into a fortress or other enclosure. Now, they are sold at Shinto shrines at the new year, as protection from evil spirits.
Of course, as with all Japanese festivals, there will also be FOOD! There were many vendor stalls set up selling your favorite Japanese street food; yakisoba, yakiniku, takoyaki, etc.
The festival is held at the Haijima Daishi temple every year on January 2nd and 3rd. Parking is extremely limited. The website recommends taking the train, closest station is Akishima station (which is the Moritown station), then it is about a 20 minute walk from Akishima station. Jamie Cowan, December 2015
Hours: 0900-1600, January 2nd and 3rd.
GPS to the shrine: 35.7056997,139.3449119
Shrines and Temples – Etiquette
Shrines are places of worship in the Shinto religion, an ancient faith indigenous to Japan. Shrines usually have torii gates (two pillars with two cross bars) at the entrances to their grounds, and jagged paper emblems or symbolic ropes in front of the altars. Temples, on the other hand, are Buddhist. They are often marked on maps with a symbol resembling a backward swastika. Sometimes, both are present on the same grounds. These are places of worship, so dress appropriately (no bare shoulders or short shorts), and behave respectfully. When entering certain locations, visitors may be asked to take off their shoes. Look for signs requesting this, or shelves where shoes may be left. Some temples and shrines allow photography. Others do not. Check for signs. If unsure, be courteous and ask before taking pictures, especially of interior areas. Louise McCormack
If you like, you can participate in the rituals worshippers practice when they go to a shrine:
Pass under the torii gate and walk through the ‘sando’ or approach to the shrine. At the hand-washing (or purification) stone basin, wash your hands thoroughly. With a dipper, pour water into the cupped hand and then bring the water to the mouth, gargle but do not swallow. Do not bring the dipper directly to the mouth. Advance before the god enshrined. Throw coins or paper currency into the offering box. The worshipper then bows deeply two times. After that, they clap their hands twice and then make a deep bow once more.
Worshippers at a Temple will often burn incense (osenko) in large incense burners. They are purchased in bundles, then lit, allowed to burn for a few seconds and then the flame is extinguished by waving the hand rather than by blowing them out. Finally, the incense is put into the incense burner and some of the smoke is fanned towards the worshipper as the smoke is believed to have healing power. For example, fan some smoke towards your shoulder if you have an injured shoulder.
Area Churches with Services in English
Check at the base chapel for more services and points of contact.
Kanto Plains Baptist Church 042-551-1915
New Light Fellowship 042-553-8040
Tokyo Baptist Church 03-3461-8425
Yokota Baptist Church 042-553-2577
Apostolic United Pentecostal Church 042-553-1159
St. Alban’s Anglican/Episcopal Church 03-3431-8534
Yokota Christian Center 042-551-4772
Yokota Church of Christ 227-6028
Calvary Conservative Baptist Church 042-557-0654
Saint Anselm’s Benedictine Priory (Roman Catholic) 03-3491-6966
St. Paul International Lutheran Church, Tokyo 03-3261-3740
Independent Church of Deliverance 042-552-9679
Franciscan Chapel Center (Roman Catholic) 03-3401-2141/2142
Tokyo Union Church 03-3400-0047
Tokyo International Church of Seventh-day Adventists 03-3402-1517