For New Year’s, many from all over the Pacific Northwest flock to the Tsubaki Grand Shrine in Granite Falls, Washington to partake in a Japanese tradition called “Hatsumoude” – the first visit to a shrine or temple in the New Year. People go and pray for good fortune and health throughout the year and buy amulets and charms for protection and good luck. The custom is one this Okinawan-born half breed had yet to experience despite having lived on Okinawa until graduating high school so Jamie and I took up our friends’ offer to join them and checked it out. We didn’t actually participate in any of the customary rituals. Instead we stood back and observed, doing our best to stay out of the way. It was refreshing enough just being there.

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The property itself really had our attention and we hope to go back when the weather is a bit better. The shrine sits on 25 acres of lush forest and the Pilchuk River flows right through it, a beautiful setting and a perfect backdrop for a Japanese Shinto shrine. It was a peaceful morning until a nearby resident fired off an M80 round, reminding us we were in rural America on New Year’s Day.

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