On January 4th we went to Hokkaido Shrine to pray to the Shinto Gods for good luck and to find out what this year holds for us. Here is the queue to get up to the Shrine:
It was more than chilly, we lost feeling in our feet. There is a ritual of sorts to praying at a Shinto Shrine, one which I always forget but I'll try to go over it here. First of all you have to purify yourself at the water spring outside the shrine. You use a wooden ladle and I think you hold it in your right hand to wash your left hand, then left hand to wash right hand, then right hand to pour water into your left hand and sip it to clean your mouth. Finally let the water trickle down over the handle to clean the ladle for the next person. I may have that wrong.
When you reach the Shrine to pray you throw five or ten yen into the collection tray then it's two bows, two claps, one bow, pray and one bow again. Once more, that's probably wrong but I've done it a few times now and I can never keep it straight in my head.
We also got Omikuji, which is divination by lots. You make a 100 yen donation and pick a piece of paper on which is written your fortune for the year. Broadly you can get small, medium and big good luck or small, medium and big bad luck. Almost all of them are Shoukichi - small good luck - which is what I got. There are also some details under different headings like "business - you won't make a lot of money"; "something lost - it will be found, but you must look hard" "illness - it will be serious, go see a doctor". That kind of thing.
You can always see these too:
They're prayers written on pieces of wood which are displayed for a while before being burned so that the Gods can read them in the smoke and maybe help out. I took a photo of this one because it's a band asking for fame, fortune and a national tour in 2009.