Visiting Aoshima Shrine in the New Year
During the New Year time, when the cold still lingers in the air, the crowds of people visiting and praying at Aoshima-jinja create a warm and bustling sense that is greater than ever.
Located on a small island in the city of Miyazaki, Aoshima Shrine is a top destination for lovers and those looking for love. This is also one of the reasons for my trip to that wonderful spiritual place.
People usually come here on the Lunar New Year's Eve or 3-5 days later. However, during those times, it will be very crowded and cramped in the shrine.
Although I like a fresh and peaceful atmosphere, I decided to go there on the morning of the 2nd to feel the bustling atmosphere of the spring and the new year.
Upon entering, the first thing I saw was the typical red torii gate that is present in any shrine. Just bow gently and leisurely step inside, you will feel a sense of comfort immediately fill your soul.
However, don't forget to walk on the sidewalk on either side, because the wide walkway in the middle is for the gods. They won't be very happy if you walk on the wrong path.
Common sense is that, when going to any spiritual place in this land of the rising sun, I have to wash my hands and feet thoroughly to perform a ritual of removing all the dust before reaching the sacred gateway.
Below the steps leading to the main shrine area, I saw a dragon spraying water with some bowls beside it. That is the place for people to shake off the dust of the world to get ready for a pilgrimage to Shinto.
It is really crowded in Aoshima Shrine during New Year's time, so I could not get in front of the altar to pray. After 2 bows, 2 claps, and another bow, I rang the bell and tossed the coin into the offering box to start praying.
It was the first time I officially prayed in a shrine, so I had to watch and follow what other people did, and that process was truly fascinating.
I dropped the 5円 into the box since, in the Japanese language, 5円 is pronounced the same as "goen" which means bonding and intimate connection.
After praying, I wandered around and quickly found the place for drawing Omikuji which is located next to the entrance of Aoshima.
I drew one with the price of 500円 (about 100.000 VND) and surprisingly, I got "excellent luck" - the most fortunate Omikuji that anyone wishes to have. My Omikuji means "This year, if I try my best in my work and study, I will definitely get some achievements, my health is relatively good and needs more attention."
The grounds of the Aoshima Shrine are not wide, but the view is very open and broad. My favourite spot is the corner for hanging Ema plaques.
People believe that if you write your wish on an Ema plaque and hang it in the Ema area in the temple, the gods will hear that wish and it will come true.
The back of Ema plaques is decorated with the image of Japanese girls and boys in their traditional costumes. That is definitely a plaque wishing for a romantic love story that will happen to them in the near future or simply a smooth path of love.
Buying a plaque and writing my own wish on it is something I could not possibly pass. You don't necessarily have to wish for love, instead, you can wish for many other aspects of life.
The tranquillity and quiet atmosphere of Aoshima was like a miracle that put my heart at peace and helped me feel the gentle caress of spring in Japan. If you have a chance, please come and visit this place!
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