Countries around the globe choose to ring in the new year with a wide variety of traditions. In Japan, New Years is a major holiday, with many associated traditions including Hatsumōde, which means "first shrine (or temple) visit of the year.”
While Americans tend to celebrate on New Year’s Eve, the Japanese celebrate the arrival of the new year on December 31st as well as the first, second, and third days of January.
Japan is home to many, many shrines, and when it comes to Hatsumōde, a single shrine can see millions of visitors. Standing in line can take well over an hour, but the rewards are worth the wait for many.
If you find yourself inside a shrine or temple for Hatsumōde, there are several traditions you can participate in, including doing some soul-searching in the form of making offerings and/or praying.
When it comes to bettering your life for the coming year, temples and shrines offer some items that can help. There’s omamori, a traditional Japanese luck charm and fortunes called omikuji that offer advice. If you have a desire for the New Year, you can write your wish on an ema, a special wooden plaque, and it might just come true.
Of all the many temples shrines in Japan, here are eight popular ones perfect for celebrating Hatsumōde.