Celebrating New Year in Japan is all about ‘firsts’. Perhaps the most important ‘first’ is the first trip to shrines in Tokyo, a tradition called hatsumode. While this can be done at any time, usually all over the first three days of the year, the most dramatic time will be at midnight of December 31, when crowds will gather to hear parishioners ring the temple bells and pray.
As well as religious activities, there are many other non-secular events in Tokyo at the turn of the year, and below are Japan Info Swap’s pick of the bunch.
Meiji Jingu Hatsumode
As one of the top three shrines in Japan Meiji is the most popular shrine to visit for Hatsumode, and will attract over 3.1 million people over the first three days of the year. In recent times it has been considered a power spot, from where pilgrims can draw power for the coming year.
As can be expected, with so many visitors, people queue for hours to for their first prayer, though many do not wait to get to the front of the queue, instead tossing their coins far over people’s heads in order to make their ritual donation.
Asakusa Kannon Hatsumode
Asakusa shrine is one of the 840 important shrines in Japan and is another popular hatsumode spot. In previous times the Sensoji temple closed its doors on New Year’s Eve, only opening them at midnight, however as the temple has grown in popularity this practice has been discontinued to protect the thronging crowds. At midnight parishioners ring the joya-no-kane (New Year bells) 108 times and amulets go on sale to promote good luck for the coming year.
From January 1 to 6, a Buddhist ceremony called Shushou-e is held to pray for good luck and happiness in the coming year and to drive out evil spirits.
To continue reading a full story and learn about Hatsumode in Tokyo, please click Hatsumode in Tokyo -Shrines to Visit for New Years
Image: flicker.com “People making their prayers” by Edmund Yeo (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Image: By Rs1421 (Own Work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Image: By Aimaimyi (Own Work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons