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Boost your luck! Top 5 Kyoto Shrines for Your First Visit of the New Year

Japan has a tradition called hatsumode, when people visit a shrine for the first time in the New Year to pray for happiness for the whole year. Here are five of the most visited temples in the old city of Kyoto.

What is hatsumode?

Hatsumode is the first visit to a temple or shrine in the New Year. This tradition started in the middle of the Meiji Period (1868 – 1912) and is now loved by many Japanese. Every temple and shrine has its own special characteristics, so the atmosphere surrounding hatsumode varies depending on the temple or shrine you visit. Go ahead, look for the kind of hatsumode tradition that fits you!

This is how to properly pray during hatsumode

※The photo is of Meiji Shrine

Every temple and shrine is crowded with people on New Year’s Day

1. Fushimi Inari Taisha

Fushimi Inari Taisha, with its impressive tunnel-like line of vermilion torii gates, is the head shrine of the Inari shrines that are said to number about 30,000 all over Japan. As the biggest hatsumode spot in Kansai region and one of the leading spots in the country, this shrine is visited by more than 2.5 million people annually for the event. Aside from blessings for a thriving business and an abundant harvest, this shrine is also believed to help people ward off evil and be safe on the road. At the Okusha Houhaisho right past the senbon torii gates (rows of torii gates), there is a rock called “omokaruishi.” They say that if you lift this rock after making a wish and you feel that the rock is lighter than you thought, then your wish will be granted, so make sure to try lifting it! This shrine is immensely crowded from New Year’s Eve until January 3rd, so if you want to avoid the chaos, then you can worship in relative peace by avoiding the first three days of the year or by going early in the morning some other day.

1. Fushimi Inari Taisha

68 Fukakusa Yabunouchi-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

2. Kitano Tenmangu

This shrine, in which the deity of academia, Sugawara no Michizane, is enshrined as Tenjin. It's one of the main Tenmangu shrines along with Dazaifu Tenmangu in Fukuoka. There are about 12,000 Tenmangu shrines around Japan. This shrine is said to fulfill the academic wishes of worshipers. Every year, many students preparing to take an exam come to this shrine for their hatsumode to pray that they pass their exams. Inside the temple precinct, you will see various areas that are said to bring fortune, including the cow statue that is believed to bring good luck if you rub its head, a garden lantern of the God of Wealth that is said to give economic fortune, good luck charms, and the jishusha shrine that brings peace and prosperity at home. Aren’t you glad that just one visit to this shrine could potentially give you lots of blessings already?

2. Kitano Tenmangu

Bakuro-cho, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

3. Shimogamo Jinja

Shimogamo Jinja (officially known as Kamomioya Jinja) sits at the back of the Tadasu no Mori where a virgin forest remains from ancient times and where the Kamogawa and Takanogawa rivers join together. It is one of the oldest temples in Kyoto, and is registered as a World Cultural Heritage Site as a part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. This temple is said to bring better fortune, luck in marriage, ward off evil and bring about safety on the road. It is a famous hatsumode spot that is visited by many worshippers annually. The Aioi no Yashiro, a subordinate shrine, is home to the sacred tree Renri no Sakaki. Here, two trees merge to form a single tree in the middle so it is popular among young women for bringing luck in marriage. So, if you are waiting for a wonderful encounter, why not visit this shrine?

※Photo is for illustration purposes

3. Shimogamo Jinja

59 Shimogamo Izumigawa-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

4. Kifune Jinja

Kifune Jinja, which enshrines the deity of water that is the source of vitality of all things, has long been worshiped by people engaged in jobs that are related to water such as agriculture, sake brewing. and textile dyeing. This shrine is believed to bring good luck, fulfill wishes, and and bring luck in matchmaking or marriage, and it has also become a famous power spot in recent years. The “mizu-uranai mikuji” is a unique and artistic way for telling fortune as the message on the paper will be revealed when the paper is dipped in the water within the shrine precinct. There is a high-tech system in place here so that if you read the QR code printed on the fortune-telling paper on a smartphone, it can be translated into four languages and you can listen to your fortune. Don’t forget to pull a fortune to commemorate your visit to this shrine. It is extremely cold around Kifune, so make sure to bundle up when you visit.

4. Kifune Jinja

180 Kuramakibune-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

5. Yasaka Jinja

Yasaka Jinja, which is famous for the Gion Festival that is one of the three major festivals in Japan, is a famous spot that is fondly called "Gion-san" by locals. It is easily accessible from town, so throngs of worshipers come here for their hatsumode. There are many deities enshrined within Yasaka Jinja’s precinct, and just by praying to each one of them, you will be able to reap a lot of benefits, including warding off evil, protection from plague, good luck, and meeting a good match. The area around Yasaka Jinja is lined with streets filled with the Kyoto vibe, such as the hanamachi (former geisha district) of Gion and Kiyomizudera Temple, so when you come here, it is recommended to stroll around Gion and enjoy the celebratory atmosphere while welcoming the New Year.

5. Yasaka Jinja

625 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

Kyoto is home to numerous temples and shrines that are said to give a lot of benefits and blessings to worshipers. It would be best to research in advance and visit the shrine that houses the deity that is most suited to your wishes. However, all temples and shrines are packed during the hatsumode period, so it is recommended to visit with time to spare.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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