Want to ensure peace and prosperity for 2020? Head to Kyoto’s Yasaka Shrine on the 31st of December for the Okera Mairi ceremony, which is supposed to ensure just that.
Okera roots are burned in bonfires, and their flames are used to light two toro lanterns placed in Yasaka-jinja’s precincts. People crowd around to light lengths of bamboo robe, and walk home swinging them to keep the flame burning. At home, this sacred flame is used to light a candle on the household altar, or to light a fire over which zoni soup is prepared. Zoni contains chicken, vegetables and mochi, and is believed to be one of the most auspicious soups to eat on New Year’s Day. From 9pm, the Imamiya Shrine priests will visit the shrine.
If you arrive a little earlier – the oharae-shiki ceremony for the purification of sins starts at 3pm.
Events begin at 7pm on December 31st and wrap up at about 5am on January 1st, when the Whote Birch ceremony begins. The Yasaka Shrine is 10 minutes walk up Shijo Dori from Gion-Shijo Station.