In Japan, it is customary to visit the temple on New Year’s Day and pray for your family’s health and happiness. In this newsletter, I would like to talk about the meaning of praying on New Year’s Day.
To celebrate the new year and to pray for peace, happiness, and health on New Year’s Day is called “shu shou e” in Japanese. The origins of this custom go back to Ancient China, where the ceremony was first practiced. The first written record of this ceremony in Japan is said to have been held at the temple built under the emperor of the time in AD759. After AD765, every prefecture had a big temple where these ceremonies could also be held. During that time, the people prayed for the country’s peace and also for good harvest.
In AD827 “shu shou e”, which had once been restricted to certain temples, was now publicly given permission to be practiced in several other temples. Through the centuries, it is said that people made a custom to practice “shu shou e” to mainly pray for one’s personal benefits. Aside from “shu shou e”, it was customary in every prefecture to pray every New Year’s Day at a local shrine. During the Edo Period (1600s), people started believing that by praying, they would be blessed with good luck and happiness.
In present day Japan, the “shu shou e” has been renamed “hatsu mou de” due to the incorporation of different styles of praying that have been practiced throughout Japanese history. In any case, the way that the people pray for peace and happiness has not changed. We will gain protection and benefits from the Buddha if we consciously hope for this peace and happiness and work towards achieving this goal.
At our temple, we have a purification service every month. By striving to attend the services and pray, you will be able to obtain benefits from the Buddha. Therefore, this year, let’s make an effort to attend these services as I will be purifying your family alters and praying for your family’s happiness from the temple at midnight on New Year’s Day.
Ven. Kenjo lgarashi