Personalizing Your Hatsumode Experience at a Shrine or Temple
I loved the beauty of Kongourinji, which is one of the three Kotosanzan temples ( covered previously on Be Wa ). Other than the person who took our admission fees, the place seemed to be empty, setting a very quiet and serene start to the new year.
Walking up the slope, which is slowly taxing (that footing especially!), I passed many small statues wearing colorful fabric bibs. These are in honor of Jizo Bosatsu, the Bodhisattva who protects children, including stillborns. It is said that there are over 1,000 statues here, and I would not be surprised if there were twice as many!
At the top, we entered through a gate with a set of huge straw sandals, and also two wooden statues; their intimidating faces really set the mood! Not in a bad way though; their faces seemed fiercely protective.
There was a small wooden covering for incense, where I lit three sticks and then breathed in the relaxing scent. I resisted the urge to make smoke rings. I noticed a lot of paper tags at this temple, and it turns out that they are somewhat like a business card. Called senjafuda, it is a paper sticker that has a name of it and serves to commemorate a visit to a temple or shrine.
The Kongourinji Pagoda is three stories high, and absolutely beautiful. Near the pagoda there were some buds on the trees and it looked timeless.
Walking through the rest of the gardens (spotting yukitsuri) and weaving through the path back down was beautiful. Compared to the populated Taga Taisha, Kongourinji felt peaceful and beautiful. Soft healthy moss and warm earth tones gave the temple an inviting presence that encouraged me to stay longer. No matter how you decide to do Hatsumode, you are sure to have a good time. As for me, I recommend doing both, engaging in the crowd and purchasing omikuji, and then taking a quiet break to freshen yourself for the new year and a new you.