Travel Destinations

Japan, Kamakura – New Year Hopes and Dreams

Written by Christina Riley

2015 is just out of the gate but it’s never too late to look back on resolutions made as the New Year was just emerging. A visit to Japan’s Hase Dera Temple in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture revealed the special and serious nature of this holiday. So many beautiful moments can be captured while walking around inside this temple complex but one point really inspired Mrs. Stewart to the point of writing something here. She looks to the new year with so much hope and inspiration. All it took was a look at some lovely blocks of wood. 

Hase_Dera_Kamakura__Hopes_and_WishesJapan, Kamakura – New Year Hopes and Dreams

There is nothing that gets me as emotional as looking at other people’s wishes and dreams for the new year. As I stand in a crowded temples watching the people throw their money, clap, close their eyes tight, and pray, I can’t help but get a little teary-eyed. I wonder what they are praying for. Are they dreaming of a world filled with peace? Everlasting all consuming happiness? Success and wealth in the new year?  
We all start out with a clean slate, fresh intentions, and aspirations for a healthier peaceful and prosperous world. A never-ending wall of dreams. A display of the deepest wishes that come from the heart. My husband always asks me what I prayed for, but every time I am so overcome with emotion that I can’t say anything but, “It’s personal.” I never had the courage to write my prayers out for the world, so seeing a wall of wishes and dreams in so many languages makes me well up with tears of joy and inspiration. These are selfless thoughts for a better tomorrow. 

What are your hopes and dreams for the upcoming year? 

About the author

Christina Riley

Christina is an accidental photographer who keeps getting better and better with every shot. Don’t you agree? She also dabbles in writing and comes up with great thoughts!


  • First of all, I LOVE that you have an admin name “Ms. Duke Stewart.” Hehe ^_^ I definitely get what you mean. I watched as a man tried to make his lantern float during our new year celebrations in Boseong County this year, and it just wouldn’t float. He was so upset and took it so seriously… it’s just… important… and it’s impacting to see.

    • Hahaha! Thanks Neysha! I don’t write often, but there is just something about hopes and dreams that gets me so emotional! Our dreams and desires can manifest in so many different ways that it is just so inspiring to watch others express them!

    • Thank you USAabroad! There is something about dream, huh? We should talk about them and share them with the world, but they are often so meaningful that it can be scary to put them out there! I think a lot of the emotion for me comes from watching those people have the courage to share them with strangers! What do you think it is that makes you so emotional?

  • I love the image of “a wall of dreams”. I think it’s really special when people reveal their dreams to others, it lets you get to know them on a deeper level. Thanks for the touching read!

    One of my dreams for the year? To hike the Enchantments in my home state (Washington). I’ve been wanting to do it for years, and should finally get the chance this summer!

  • It’s definitely cool to see people to make their wishes, prayers, or whatever you want to call them in a ritualized setting.

    One of the things that has stood out to me most in Taiwan so far is that when walking by a Buddhist temple, you will often catch people putting paper into a little fireplace. They have written on the paper and then let it burn away. I haven’t had a good chance to look into it but I’m guessing it’s something similar to what you saw in Japan. Despite not knowing the details behind what they are doing, it’s really awesome to watch.

    • There was a situation I saw in Kyoto like what you mentioned about Taiwan. I remember a Chinese film instructor informed us once that when they burn the paper during Lunar New Year, it’s to remember their ancestors. Not sure if the same thing goes down during Solar New Year or not. Anyway, I bet it was pretty awesome to see. Did you happen to get a photo or two of it?

      • Oh it’s not even a new years thing. They do it all the time ha. But it could definitely be related to their ancestors. No photo but I’ll try next time I see it.

  • This is beautiful! I like the idea of “hopes, wishes, and dreams” for 2015, instead of new years resolutions. Instead on focusing on a success or failure plan, wishes and dreams focus on sending out a positive energy.
    My theme for this next year is to maximize and minimize. I want to maximize the good moments, and minimize the clutter.

  • This was very sweet and very touching! I recently had a semi-similar moment, on the beach in El Nido on New Years. A large group of people were letting lanterns go and making wishes for the New Years, and I could help but reflect and think of my own wishes as the lanterns floated up toward the limestone karsts. I have so many hopes and wishes for 2015, my biggest being travel as much as I can in Korea and around. And really start to figure out how to become location independent when my time in Korea is up!

    • Wow, location independence. Such an interesting idea. Is that something you’ve been thinking about for a while? If so, I’d love for you to mention a link on twitter about that if possible. Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment. El Nido really touched you, huh?

  • I once stood outside a temple here in Korea and silently watched those worshipping. It was a moving moment seeing people kneel and stand, kneel and stand; all the while you wonder why and what do they pray for. My hopes for 2015? To travel more and to see my family back in South Africa- especially my 80 year old grandfather. Lovely post ^^

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I hope you achieve everything that you set out to do in 2015 and beyond! That includes seeing your grandfather:) Happy belated New Year!