Speaking of the Japanese New Year countdown, most of the locals will watch the singing content on NHK, or watch fireworks in Yokohama, or go to Tokyo Tower and experience the New Year celebration. If you have the chance to do New Year’s Eve countdown in Japan, or experience the New Year, you need to know about Japanese customs ~ spend the first day of New Year in a temple!
History of Hatsumode (The first Shinto shrine visit of the year):
Maybe you would think that Hatsumode is a traditional Japanese custom, but compared to other custom, it does not have a very long history. At the beginning, it was started in Tokyo, but after the opening of the railway in the Meiji Period, residents from all over the place would come to Tokyo or the nearby famous shrine for Hatsumode, and it slowly becomes an important culture in Japan.
Hatsumode is very similar with going to the temple during Chinese New Year, besides wishing for peace and good luck, the Japanese also go and thank god for the blessing of the past years. Be careful when you are going to the famous shrine! Usually, on the first three days (January 1st to 3rd) and January, 7th (Japanese calendar – 松の内）, more people will go to the shrine. Especially on the 1st of January, famous shrine like Meiji Jingu will be very crowded. However, if you don’t want to miss out on this experience, you can go anytime in January. There is no set time for prayers, and on the first three days, the shrine will be open for longer hours!
Kawasaki Daishi at night （Source: flickr.com）
There is also another option for those who don’t want to wait too long. The crowd start from 23:00 on 12/31 until 3:00. Later the crowd will be back on the New Year Day, 9:00! Hence, if you want to avoid the crowd, maybe you can visit the shrine in the early morning. Do some research and see which is the most convenient time for you.
Famous Meiji Jingu
The famous Meiji Jingu, attracts 300 million every year. During normal days, it is only a 15 minutes walking distance from the station, but during New Year Day, it becomes an hour! If you are going on the night of New Year Eve, it might take you 1 -2 hours for the prayers, on New Year Day, it could take you 3 -4 hours!
It is located in Kanagawa, it attracts mostly family, because there is a station nearby, it is very convenient. Even though it is very similar like Meiji Jigu, it might take you 2 -3 hours.. But the crowd will reduce starting from New Year evening, hence, you can come here after the peak hours!
Want to find out more about other activities? Where to get the information?
Here is a good website, check it out:http://www.rurubu.com/season/winter/oshogatsu/ (Pictures taken from the official website)
You can find information about different shrine in this website. First, pick the area which you are interested (check the map below “Must-go places for Hatsumode”:
The information are very complete, take Osaka’s Hatsumode as example, besides the shrine name and the most crowded time (mixed timing), it also list out which are the most powerful fortune paper（ご利益), very interesting and informative!
Want to know how to get there? Very easy! Just click on the name:
Look! A brief description about Hatsumode, special event, phone number, address and transport.
Besides hatsumode, bell ringing and watching the first sunrise are also one of the popular activities. If you want to know more about 除夜の鐘 or 初日の出’s information, you can find it here, just pick a place on the map.
Even though most of the information are in Japanese, but you can get Google Translate to help you out! (Smile)