ZEKKEI’s Five New Year Shrine Destinations

ZEKKEI’s Five New Year Shrine Destinations
Have you heard of “hatsumode”? Pronounced “hat-sue-mow-day”, it refers to the practice of visiting shrines and temples in the first few days of the New Year. People go to express appreciation for their health in the previous year and pray for safety and peace in the next. This is an annual New Year’s event in Japan regardless of one’s religion.

The temples and shrines of Japan are lively with visitors on the first day of the year. If you have a chance, try going out for hatsumode this New Year!

Here are our top five hatsumode spots in Japan !

Fushimi Inari Taisha(Kyoto)

Our first hatsumode spot is Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Taisha, a very popular shrine among domestic and international travelers. This is the head shrine of the more than 30,000 Inari shrines located across Japan, and it has more than 10,000 devotional torii gates on its grounds.
There are many rituals held here during the New Year period. From 15:00 on December 31, the Oharaeshiki (Grand Purification Ceremony) is held, cleansing people of the weight of their wrongdoings and allowing them to welcome the coming year with a pure spirit. This is followed by the Joyasai (New Year Eve’s Festival) where thanks is given for another year of life. To pray for a safe and peaceful new year, the Saitansai (New Year’s Sunrise Festival) is held from 6:00 on January 1. Be sure to attend this event as well to offer up your wishes for another wonderful year.

Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine(Osaka)

Next on the list is Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Taisha. Locals affectionately call the shrine “Sumiyossan,” and it is very famous for the incredible number of people who come here for hatsumode. The main hall is built in a style called “sumiyoshi-zukuri”. As the oldest example of a distinct construction style in Shinto architectural history, it is designated as a National Treasure.
If you’re going to see just one Sumiyoshi Taisha ritual, it should be the Touka-shinji (Ritual of Dance and Song) held from 13:00 on January 4. They say good fortune will visit those who receive the red and white rice cakes that are tossed to the crowd at the end of the ceremony.

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu(Kanagawa)

Our third recommendation is Tsurugaoka Hachimangu (a shrine dedicated to the god Hachiman). This shrine, which even now is the symbol of the old capital city Kamakura, was founded at Yuigahama by the famous samurai general Minamoto no Yoriyoshi in 1063 as a branch of Iwashizumi Hachimangu.

Held from January 1 to January 7, the Gohan-gyoji (Offering of the Sacred Seal) involves prayers for good health, good fortune, and recovery from disease. Also, it’s said that this sacred seal grants mental clarity and sharpness.

Senso-ji Temple(Tokyo)

The fourth place we’d recommend that you visit is Senso-ji in Tokyo’s Asakusa district. Popular with visitors from overseas, you can see the Tokyo Skytree from the temple grounds, which are lively with a regular stream of visitors.
Come midnight on New Year’s Eve, the Joya no Kane (New Year’s Eve Bell) is rung and a great cry rises up from the crowds of people that pack the temple. Though terribly crowded during the New Year, it’s a great place to go for hatsumode if you want to experience Tokyo’s famous Asakusa area at its peak capcity.

Meiji Jingu Shrine(Tokyo)

Rounding off our list today is Meiji Jingu in Tokyo. Known for providing blessings for not simply good luck and marriage but also household safety and even world peace, Meiji Jingu is also famous for seeing the most visitors in all of Japan for hatsumode every year.

It may be in the heart of the city, but it is surrounded by a vast site filled with nature, bringing its visitors peace of mind. We heartily recommend this classic shrine for your first hatsumode in Japan.

Did all this talk of New Years make you want to try your first hatsumode? If you find yourself in Japan come early January, we hope you’ll use the opportunity to try it out. It’s sure to be the start of a wonderful year!

And by the way, Bilingual Chika has a video in English that introduces hatsumode. Be sure to watch it before you go!

Bilingual Chika’s Youtube channel, Japanagos here (https://www.youtube.com/user/japanagos)

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