THE HEART OF KANJI: First shrine or temple visit of the Japanese New Year


Hatsumode. calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

Hatsumode. calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu
Hatsumode. calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

初 (Hatsu) means “first” or “beginning.” The left side of this character represents clothes or kimono. The right side indicates a knife. To make a kimono, one must first cut the cloth.

詣 (Mode or mairu) means “to visit a shrine.” The left side of the character indicates talking. The top of the right side indicates people and the bottom of the right side indicates the sun.

Combined, this means the “first shrine visit of the new year to express your appreciation for the sun and all the blessings of Kami-sama.”

A traditional custom in Japan is to visit a shrine on New Year’s Day to greet the new year. Even people who ordinarily do not go to shrines or temples during their everyday life visit at New Year’s to pray for their health and the well-being of their family. The more popular shrines each attract millions of people during the first few days of the new year.

When visiting, don’t forget to express your appreciation for the past year, in addition to making wishes for the coming one. Appreciate the sun and nature, which provide the necessities of life. Be thankful for your friends and family. Be grateful to mother earth.

Then, make your prayers for the new year. Pray for health, good fortune, harmony and happiness.

I wish you much joy and inner peace in 2017.

Happy New Year! (Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu)

Note: The Konko Church of San Francisco, located at 1909 Bush St. in San Francisco’s Japantown, will be open to the public for Hatsumode Jan. 1-3, 2017 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please feel free to drop by and make your prayers for the New Year.

Rev. Masato Kawahatsu is a minister at the Konko Church of San Francisco and Konko Center of South San Francisco, who teaches shodo (Japanese calligraphy). He can be reached at or (415) 517-5563. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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