In Japan it is tradition to ring in the New Year at a shrine or temple – no big parties there! Just family time and praying for good fortune in the upcoming year. Last year in Kobe, I didn’t realize just how important it was for people to visit a shrine on New Year’s Day until I got caught in the foot traffic leading to the Ikuta Shrine. All car traffic had been stopped due to the number of people visiting the shrine and food vendors lined the path. It was amazing to see the crowd!