My Shrine


Everyone wants to be first! Between January 1st at 00:01 and January 3rd the truly faithful (or truly desirous of good fortune) of the Shinto (神道) faith head to one of the main shrines. The main shrine, called Jinguu (神宮), is nearby in Ise (伊勢); although this is a rather remote location they got about 1.8 million visitors this year. A few other jinguu have been created in more accessible locations; for example, Meiji Jinguu (明治神宮) in Tokyo, which received more than 5 million visitors. All in all I think close to 10 percent of the population headed to one of the four main shrines during that three day period.

My first parenthetical comment above regards the fact that most of the people who go to the shrines at the New Year are going to receive good fortune during the new year. Many people write about the meaning of the 5 yen (五円) offering being a homonym for good fortune (御縁), go-en, which makes it a common offering on routine visits to minor shrines. Additional offerings with meanings are: 25 yen (二十五円), a homonym for twice the good fortune (二重御縁), nijuu go-en; and 45 yen (四十五円), meaning constant good fortune (始終御縁), shijuu goen. Apparently this year the most popular offering was 2991 yen. Alternate readings of the numbers could give the reading fuku koi (福来い). Because koi is kind of a demanding form of ‘come’, the news translated this as “fortune come quickly”. Many people also make offerings of thousands of dollars in order to be allowed into various inner rings of shrines where they receive special blessings from priests.

Running some numbers, I guess Jinguu draws at least 50 million dollars in three days. If I started my own shrine, Bikkuri Jinja (びっくり神社), I wonder how much I could rake in…

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