My second adopted New Year tradition since I have been in Japan is the early January pilgrimage to the temples of the Seven Gods, in search of blessings for the year ahead. Each of the gods exercises dominion over one or more of the important facets of life: health; wealth; relationships; etc. To the best of my recollection, the gods are Hotei, Bishomon, Ebisu, Sneezy, Dopey, Sleepy and Doc—but don’t quote me on that.
At the first temple, you buy a shikishi card, a gold-trimmed piece of handmade board, upon which the seals of the seven temples will be affixed, one by one as you visit them. It is a self-guided tour, and you can undertake it in any order or direction you choose, taking as long as you like to complete the circuit. Once your card is fully stamped, you can get $2 off a Big Mac set at McDonald’s. Okay, just kidding about that part. When the card is completed, you display it in your entry hall, in case one of the gods should appear at your door in disguise, like some celestial trick-or-treater. I’ve saved all my old ones, just in case.
This year, we had a new addition to the revelers, onee-chan Yuki, home on holiday from art school in Milan. Dressed in her best bohemian black, Yuki went from temple to temple with pen and pad in hand, dashing off quick studies of each. She’s pretty good, actually, and I will be happy to act as her agent, should you want to buy one of her paintings or sketches!