The main focus in December is the upcoming New Year. Many traditions and foods are connecting to ending the old year and looking forward to the new. With the Tori-no-Ichi Fair that took place in November at Otori Shrine, the New Year events and customs have begun in earnest. 2018 will be the Year of the Dog.
From December 17 to 19, the year-end market “Toshi-no-Ichi” will take place at Senso-ji Temple. The annual market has a long history and has now become a market for the good-luck charms called “Hagoita”. This is why now this event is also called “Hagoita-Ichi” or Battledore Fair. These charms are highly decorated and come in a variety of designs. Some show Kabuki actors in a style reminiscent of old Japanese woodprints and others pick up celebrities and personalities that have made the news this year. This can include TV personalities, mascots, and anime characters. You can also find other types of New Year decorations at the fair, such as painted kites. This is a very popular and lively event.
On December 31, Senso-ji Temple welcomes even more crowds as people come together to hear the New Year’s Eve Bell. This is called “Joya-no-kane” and marks the end of the old year and the passage into New Year with 108 tolls of the bell. This ceremony takes place at many temples all over the country. Senso-ji Temple’s “Joya-no-kane” are often shown on local and international TV. On the 31st the area around the bell is closed off for the ceremony, but when you come to Asakusa on another day you can see the bell. When you walk towards the Main Hall from Kaminarimon Gate towards the Main Hall, turn towards the right side of the temple grounds before you pass through the big Hozomon Gate.