New Year’s rituals in Japan: Hatsumode

meiji jingu shrine Cultural Experiences

In Japan New Year is celebrated quite different from the typical Western celebrations. If you are expecting fireworks and large end of the year parties, you will be disappointed. Many Japanese celebrate the arrival of the new year quietly at home with their families. Many Japanese are closed some days around New years eve and give their workers some time of for nenmatsu nenshi (literally “end of the year and beginning of the year”). This is the time when many people traditionally will visit a shrine, or a temple in some cases, for hatsumode. In this article we will explain what hatsumode is and how you can do it too!

What is Hatsumode?

In the first days of the new year, many people visit a Shinto shrine or in some cases a Buddhist temple. This first visit of the year is known as Hatsumōde (初詣) and is done to say thanks for last year and pray for fortune for the new year to deities. Hatsumode is one of the most important traditional annual events in Japan. It literally means “the first (hatsu) shrine visit (mode)”, so in essence hatsumode is to visit a shrine (or temple) to pray for good luck for the new year.

Many shrines and temples organise Hatsumode festivities during the first few days of the year, especially on January 1st. At the popular shrines and temples you can experience a festive atmosphere with food stands and many people lining up for a prayer at the main hall, purchasing lucky charms for a fortunate new year and disposing their lucky charms of the past year.

5 most visited shrines and temples during Hatsumode period in Kanto region

1. Meiji Shrine (3.2 million people)
2. Kawasaki Daishi Heikenji Temple (3.1 million people)
3. Naritasan Shinshoji Temple (3 million people)
4. Senso-ji Temple (2.8 million people)
5. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu (2.7 million people)

Which shrine should to visit for Hatsumode?

While many Japanese people visit a local or the nearest popular shrine or temple for the first worship, some choose it depending on their wishes for the coming year or what they are thankful for from last year. It is said there are unlimited numbers of deities for Shintoism, the indigenous Japanese religion and each shrine has a unique deity. For example, deity of money, love, study, health, business and so on. So depending on what you wish for, decide on which shrine you should visit. Let’s find the best shrine for you in Tokyo!

Kanda Shrine – Business prosperity

Kanda Shrine: Hatsumode
Photo by Dick Thomas Johnson

This shrine has been worshiped for a long time and it has a history of more than 1.300 year. One of the deities is a god of business prosperity. Many people living in  Nihonbashi, Marunouchi, Tsukiji and Akihabara visit this shrine in particular. Every year, more than 300,000 people visit the shrine for Hatsumode.

Kanda Shrine
2-16-2 Sotokanda, Chiyoda, Tokyo
Access: Ochanomizu station or Akihabara station or Suehirocho station

Yushima Tenmangu – Academic Success

Yushima Tenmangu shrine @ Tokyo
Photo by Guilhem Vellut

If you have important exams coming up, you should visit Yushima Tenmangu. It is said that the god of the shrine would listen to wishes about study. In Japan, the National Test Center for university admissions usually starts around the second half of January. Therefore, many students go to the shrine and wish they will pass the exams. Their ema wishing boards are full of wishes of students. Buying a lucky charm for study would be a good present for examinees. Every year, more than 350,000 people visit the shrine as Yushima Tenmangu.

Yushima Tenmangu
3-30-1 Yushima, Bunkyō, Tokyo
Access: Yushima station, Hirokoji station or JR Okachimachi station
http://www.yushimatenjin.or.jp/pc/index.htm (Japanese only)

Tokyo Daijingu for Love

Tokyo Daijingu Shrine @ Iidabashi
Photo by Guilhem Vellut

The deity of this shrine handle is said to handle all wishes that include love, therefore a popular place for single people. It is said that ‘if you worship to the deity of Tokyo Daijingu, you will get a boyfriend, a girlfriend or a fiancé’. Often Japanese traditional wedding ceremonies are often held in the shrine, who would not want to start of their marriage with good love-luck?

To increase the chances of your wishes for a happy love life coming true at Tokyo Daijingu, here is some free advice:
1. Visit early morning – When it is busy, the deity cannot concentrate on your wishes.
2. Do your wish not only at “Tokyo Daijingu” but also “Iitomi Inari Shrine”.
3. Relax at pond named “Seseragi no Ike”, this should help with anxiety and a negative mind.

Tokyo Daijingu
2-4-1 Fujimi, Chiyoda, Tokyo Japan
Access: Iidabashi station
http://www.tokyodaijingu.or.jp/english/index.html

In this blog, we introduced 3 shrines popular for Hatsumode. Each shrine has a unique story and power due to the deity of the the shrine. However, in Japan, there are deities and even more shrines. For example, god of easy delivery, traffic safety, sports and so on. If you need additional information, please comment on this blog. We would be happy to find a shrine for your wishes!

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Happy travelling!

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