New Year's Traditions in Tokyo

When the clock struck midnight, Root and I were with my brother and friends at a restaurant/bar in Manhattan. We toasted with drinks, warm hugs and wishes for a “happy New Year.” Around the world, people have different customs and celebrate in various ways. 

In Japan, it's common to visit a temple to pay your respects and pray for safety, good fortune, and health in the New Year.
 

Tokyo's oldest and most visited temple is the Sensoji Temple, founded in 628. We visited on January 3rd, and there were still thousands of people streaming in and around the temple complex. 

At another popular site, the Tokyo National Museum, we enjoyed a special New Year’s Taiko (Japanese drum) performance. Taiko drums have been used in various ways throughout history -- from communication, military action, theatrical accompaniment, religious ceremony, festival performances, and as the basis for certain social movements for minorities.

The Kaminarimon Gate leads to the temple through a busy street market. It features a massive paper lantern painted in such a way to suggest thunderclouds and lightning.

Root stands a head above the crowd as we approach the Hozomon Gate, featuring three large lanterns.

Side view of the Sensoji Temple, a Buddhist temple that honors Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy and happiness.

Just outside of the temple entrance, there is a large pot of incense being continuously burnt. People stop to waft the smoke over themselves which is thought to help heal ailments.

Water fountain decorated with dragons is used for ritual cleansing before entering the temple.

Rear side of the Sensoji Temple.

Taiko drum performance with flute at the Tokyo National Museum.