Excerpt from Chapter 11 – “Prayer”

Published June 23, 2017

Unfortunately, the majority of today’s Japanese are not much interested in religion or well-informed about religion in general, especially religious practices. Funerals are the only religious function many Japanese attend, but for social rather than religious reasons.

Once a year, there is a rush of what many Japanese think are religious activities. In Japan, the first three days of the year are considered to be the New Year’s holiday, and millions of Japanese make pilgrimages to Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. This first visit of the year, which is called Hatsumode and is probably also the last visit of the year for many Japanese, occurs at every temple and shrine throughout Japan. Usually, the two most popular locations are Meiji Shrine in Tokyo and Shinshoji (Temple) in Narita, each of which is visited by more than 3 million people in those three days. Other popular spots are Heikenji in Kawasaki (popularly known as Kawasaki Daishi), Sensoji in Asakusa, and Fushimi Shrine in Kyoto, each of which receives 2.7 to 2.9 million visitors. I have never counted personally, but guessing from the number of coins in the offering box, I would estimate our little temple of Shinkyoji in our village of about sixty households receives somewhere between fifty and sixty visitors.