It's that time of the year, when tons of people swarm around Asakusa and other stations with temples. Rather than going to church, shrines and temples are where most Japanese gather to welcome the new year. Temples, especially those as big and popular as the one in Asakusa, will be crowded for the first week or so. Here's the first tip to avoid the crowds: go early in the morning.
Although the picture above may still seem crowded, trust me, it is much better compared to what it may look like at even 11. As it gets closer to noon, police men start to apprear, drawing out cones and lines all the way out to the streets. Of course, crowds and lines seem inevitable when doing anything in Tokyo, so if that's the experience you're going for go ahead and go in the afternoon.
Before going to any temple, you will find some type of fountain in the front as seen in the picture above. It is customary to "cleanse" yourself before entering the temple.
There is an order to which you must do this. First, you will fill the dipper with water from the fountain. You will wash your left hand, followed by the right hand, then take some water into your hand and rinse out your mouth.
Somewhere near the temple, you can also find this large cauldron-looking object with incents that you can purchase to light and put inside. As you can see, they wave the smoke to their heads repeatedly. They believe that this would make them smarter, though I'm sure all their hard work and hours spent at cram schools do that. Although, I won't deny that I'm always do it when I go to temples.
Once you get into the temple, you may be overwealmed by all the people hoarding around the front and throwing coins and miss out the beautiful display across from your inside. But it can be a bit crowded and rushed, so once you get close enough, throw in some money into the huge coin box. Although you would think that offering more money would be better, the luckiest and best coin to offer is infact the 5 yen coin. After making the offering, if there is a bell you will ring it, bow twice, clap twice, make a wish, and bow one more time.
After making your wish for the upcoming year, how about getting your fortune as well? After finding the "Omikuji" stand, you will pay one hundren yen into a small slot somewhere on the counter. After shaking the big cylindrical object from a small stick will come out with a number. With that number, you will open the designated box and take out the first sheet, which will have your fortune. If you can read numbers in Kanji, you won't have a problem finding your box, but if not, it may be best to get someone near by to help you. Most temples, at least big famous ones, will have an English translation of your fortune (although some parts may not entirely make sense).
On the off chance that you get bad luck, don't worry. If you tie it up on these racks at the temple, you will essentially leave your bad luck at the temple. The types of fortunes can range from daikichi, chukichi, shokichi, kichi, which are from greater to just good luck in order, to kyo, shoskyo, and dai kyo, which are bad luck to really bad luck in that orfer. Other than that, you also get fortunes for your health, marriages, and other aspects of your life. It's definitely a fun thing to do before ending your trip to the temple.
2-3-1 asakusa taitou-ku yokyo