• Kyodo, Staff Report


Japan was in a festive mood Monday to celebrate the New Year as 2018 was ushered in by people’s high spirits — and heavy turnouts at major tourist destinations.

Most regions along the Pacific coast of the archipelago were blessed with fine weather Monday morning, allowing people to view the first sunrise of the year, known as hatsuhinode.

Hundreds of people enjoyed hatsuhinode on the observation deck of Tokyo Tower in the capital’s Minato Ward, with people cheering as the sun rose over the horizon.

In the capital’s bustling Shibuya district, best known for its scramble crossing, the Metropolitan Police Department tightly controlled crowds who gathered for New Year’s countdown by making the area pedestrian-only and blocking the entry of large trucks, apparently with possibility of a terrorist attack in mind.

From late Sunday night through early Monday morning, several hundred police officers were mobilized in the area, and as a result no major incidents happened.

“I was happy I could share this moment with a lot of people here,” said 21-year-old Akihiro Tan.

At lunchtime on Sunday a major fire in Center-gai, a popular shopping street in the area, gutted a four-story building housing restaurants, police and firefighters said. Two people were injured in the fire, which is believed to have started in an izakaya bar on the second floor, they said.

Meanwhile, people wishing to make a fresh start on New Year’s Day crowded major shrines and temples as well as other tourist hot-spots.

Major destinations for those wanting to pray for a successful year ahead, including Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo, Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture and Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine in Kyoto, were crowded with visitors. Hundreds of thousands of people visit these places during the first three days of the new year.

At Meiji Jingu, people cheered when they heard the sound of taiko (Japanese drums) announcing the turn of the year.

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