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In Japan, where Shinto is the native religion, appropriately greeting a new year is of the utmost importance. Government offices close from Dec. 29 to Jan. 3, and most businesses also shut down for the new year’s first three days.Many people visit a shrine to make wishes for the coming year — according to the National Police Agency, out of Japan’s population of 127 million, almost 94 million visited shrines throughout the country during the 2005 New Year’s holiday. Visitors to the Meji Shrine in Tokyo walk under the large Tori Gate near the entrance to the shrine.

Another view of the Meiji Shrine. Visitors may throw money into the shrine to make a wish.

Jugs are painted as memorials to people who donate money to the shrine, and can be read while visitors wait in line. Visitors buy arrows for good luck throughout the year. The arrows are taken home and placed in the house to ward off bad accidents throughout the year. At the end of the year the arrow is returned to the shrine, burned, and replaced with another arrow.

Visitors to the Meiji shrine can write a letter to the deity on pieces of wood block to make a wish. A serene scene at the Meiji Shrine.

A visitor to the Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo washes her hands and mouth to ensure she is clean before entering the shrine. Visitors may drink sake as a way to cleanse their body for the shrine.

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