Apparently temples around Japan are threatened with closure due to falling attendance and dwindling donations, with some Buddhists even turning to anime to up their appeal to a younger crowd.

Judging by the crowds at our local shrine on New Years day at least, Shinto is in slightly better financial health, as the masses descended  to pay their respects – and a good helping of small change – in exchange for a lucky and prosperous year ahead.

It was absolutely heaving at our local shrine, with priests taking a break from their religious duties to administer a bit of crowd control as young and old alike queued to throw a coin in the donation box and make their wish for the year…

Those open to a bit of gambling could also then pay to pick out an omikuji and read their fortune for the year, which once read is tied to a fence and left as a beautiful offering to the Gods…

Given the crowds, space was at a bit of a premium and we even spotted some people taking down other’s fortunes in order to attach their own. Not sure if that’s good luck or not?!

More direct investments can be made elsewhere at the stalls selling good luck charms for the year. There are even special bins on hand to dispose of last year’s charms safely…

Outside the inner section of the shrine there’s a party atmosphere with stalls selling street food or hawking the Japanese equivalents of British fairground favourites like ‘catch the goldfish’.

And was it just me or did I also detect a certain sexual undertone running through things here? Given that Shinto shrines play host to the Japanese ‘life’ rituals – birth, marriage, harvest –I suppose it would make sense but I hadn’t been warned to expect it so…

First there were the choco-bananas. Probably just me being dirty-minded…

But there were also these rather suggestive looking treats, fugashi, painted pink especially for the day. Just a coincidence probably…

But then I spotted this little fella on the carousels of the shooting range. And no I’m not talking about Ultra Man…

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