New Year or "Oshogatsu" in Japan is symbolised by eating mochi (rice pounded into a glutonous substance), watching Kohaku Utagassen (The NHK Red and White Song Contest) and overcrowded trains (as the nation travels back to it's hometowns). This is the most important event of the Japanese year and the only time some families can get together. Visiting a shrine or temple is also essential to ensure the family's and company's health and good fortune throughout the coming year. And so as the Year of the Dragon began, 88.14 million Japanese people visited a shrine or a temple. In the first days of January, hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the Heian shrine in Okazaki(above) and Yasaka shrine in Gion (right), two of the most popular places to visit. One of the main purposes of a New Year shrine or temple visit is to get an "Omikuji" or paper fortune. Chosen by a lottery style system of drawing sticks, one receives a prediction for the year detailing such areas as travel, health, business and visitors. After being read it is usually tied to a tree in the shrine grounds and left it in the hands of the gods.