Monday, January 5, 2009

Visiting the most popular shrine for New Year's

P1020128 Meiji Jingu (明治神宮) is the most popular shrine in Tokyo during New Year's as it sees more than a few million Japanese visitors in a period of three or four days starting with the 31st. The shrine is in Harajuku (原宿) and during this period Yamanote Line (山手線) stops in a different platform in Harajuku which allows easy and direct walking access to the shrine. I think on ordinary days getting to the shrine is a bit more complicated than this. Of course the directness of the route did not do much to improve the walking time because of the huge crowd. See, even though I waited till the 3rd it was evident that it would take a while to get to the shrine the moment I got off the train and found myself in a sea of people.

P1020142 The walk from the station to the shrine itself would probably not take more than 3-5 minutes had it been empty but in the sea, nay the ocean, of people it took a good 15-20 minutes. Don't get me wrong - the walk is through extremely pleasant surrounding. The shrine is practically in the middle of a park. There are trees flanking the unpaved walkway with even a little stream in the middle flowing lazily under a bridge. Of course these things may have been extremely easy to miss if it was not for the stop and go of the crowd so I guess there was a positive side of all that crowd after all ;)









Talking of stop and go - the flow of the crowd is controlled by policemen holding up signs in Japanese and English. Of course since this is Japan there is a cute little manga-style character in the sign they hold up. This character is actually kind of like a police mascot. All of the little police stations have this character as well. I think these pictures should give you an idea about the size of the crowd...

The goal for everyone in the crowd is getting to the building there in the background so that they can drop a coin and prey. Of course since there are so many people this does not happen easily and people get impatient, throwing their coins from far away so that they don't have to wait. This means two things -

  1. The floor, behind the barrier, gets covered with coins of all sizes, and
  2. The poor policemen behind the barrier have to fend for themselves against the potentially raining coins (hence the face protection).



Betty said...

That's pretty smart to cover the ground behind the barrier with a piece of plastic/cloth. So instead of having to go pick up all the coins afterwards, the shrine people just pick up the edges of the cloth and pour the coins into a big bucket.

Don't regular people get hit by the coins if some are trying to throw it from far away?

Ulaş said...

Well, picking up the coins individually would take a REALLY REALLY long time even if you had tens of people doing it :P

Regular people do get hit by the coins sometimes though people try to not get too close to the barrier to make sure that does not happen ;)