The year 2015 is ending in a month and a half, and a lot of Japanese businesses are starting to prepare for the next year. What do they do? One of the things they do is, well, pray for wealth and good business for the coming year.
Actually, there’s a good reason they do it at this time of year. In November, there are days called tori, or rooster, every 12 days according to the Chinese Zodiac, and on the Day of the Rooster, the Tori-no-ichi, the Rooster Fair, is held at about 30 shrines throughout Tokyo, including the Otori Jinjya Shrine in Asakusa and the Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku.
This year, there are three fairs in November, and the last one will be held on Sunday, November 29. (There will also be a Tori-no-ichi eve fair held the night before.)
At the fair, you see dozens of stalls selling lucky kumade, a rake made of bamboos decorated with lucky charms such as maneki neko, or fortune cats, and okame masks (sometimes with Hello Kitty, too!). Many individuals, as well as businesses, purchase kumade to wish good wealth and fortune for the next year. Many of them go back to their favorite kumade seller every year to return the old kumade and buy a new one for the New Year.
The bigger, the better?
Kumade come in various sizes: the small ones cost around 1,000 yen and are about the size of your hand; big ones, which cost millions of yen, can be as big as a regular bathtub in Tokyo.
A buyer is supposed to buy a bigger kumade each year to keep rank in the wealth. When a buyer buys a kumade, it is a custom for both the buyer and the seller to rhythmically clap their hands while the seller shouts “Shobai-hanjo!” (“Success in business!”). This tradition is called tejime.
It is fun to stroll the Tori-no-ichi—even if you are not buying a kumade—just to look at the uniquely decorated kumade and watch sellers and buyers negotiating a price. There are also food and souvenir vendors, so why not stop by the nearest one to experience the Japanese way of enjoying the year end?