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Experience Japanese Culture! Top 8 Temples and Shrines Popular for a New Year’s Visit in Japan

You can say that hatsumode (the first visit of the year to a temple or a shrine) is the first event of a new year. Many of you might be interested in going, but aren't sure how to choose which one to go to, since there are way too many temples and shrines in Japan. Here are some popular places for hatsumode in order of ranking.

1. Meiji Jingu Shrine (Tokyo)

This is a shrine which represents Japan and is known for having the largest number of visitors during the first three days of the New Year every year. These days it is also famous as a sacred power place in the center of Tokyo. Every year more than 3 million people visit to worship during the first three days of the New Year. It will be extremely crowded between New Year's Eve and New Year Day's, and it might take about 3 to 4 hours to worship so make sure to arrive with lots of time. For those who want to avoid the crowd, we recommend visiting at an early hour in the morning or after the first three days of the New Year.

1. Meiji Jingu Shrine (Tokyo)

1-1 Yoyogi Kamizono-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

2. Kawasaki Daishi Heikenji Temple (Kanagawa)

This is an old temple established back in 1128 and it has been worshiped for a long time for Yakuyoke Daishi (Buddhist saint for warding off evil) to ward off any kind of bad luck. It is regarded as having divine favor in protecting the worshiper from evil and in making wishes come true, and is a popular place for hatsumode. Every year almost 3 million people visit the temple during the first three days of the New Year. On the entrance path to the temple, there are many shops which sell the specialty tontoname (candy kneaded and stretched then cut rhythmically with a knife), daruma dolls (good luck charms made to look like Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism sitting in Zen meditation) and kuzumochi (confection made from arrowroot starch). You should drop by after your visit to the temple.

The sight of people filling the temple grounds is a scene representative of the New Year.

2. Kawasaki Daishi Heikenji Temple (Kanagawa)

4-48 Daishi-machi, Kawasaki-ku, Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa

3. Naritasan Shinshoji Temple (Chiba)

This temple has been loved as the "king of knowledge in Narita" since its establishment in 940. It is regarded as having divine favor in bringing good luck, peace and prosperity in the household, and traffic safety, and is a popular place where more than 3 million people visit during the first three days of the New Year. In New Year, they conduct various events such as the Buddhist rite of burning cedar sticks to ask for blessings in New Year, and ohikaji which is a ritual to put fire over important belongings to receive the benefit of Ofudo-sama, the king of knowledge. In the spacious precincts of the temple there are many important cultural properties such as the Niomon (a Deva gate) and a three-storied pagoda which make it a fun place as a sightseeing destination as well.

3. Naritasan Shinshoji Temple (Chiba)

1 Narita, Narita-shi, Chiba

4. Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine (Kyoto)

This is the largest shrine in Kansai and is known as a nationally favored hatsumode place. It is also the head shrine of approximately 30,000 Inari (tutelary shrine guarding the local people) shrines in Japan. The magical appearance of its vermilion torii gates lining up as if filling the whole road is internationally famous, and it was chosen as "the most popular sightseeing place in Japan for foreign tourists" in 2014. This shrine is regarded as having divine favor for business prosperity as well as peace and prosperity in the household. The main building of the shrine and the surrounding area will be extremely crowded during the first three days of the New Year, with about 2.7 million visitors. Since the grounds of the shrine are open all day for worshiping, we recommend those who want to worship calmly with enough time to look around to visit early in the morning or in the evening.

4. Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine (Kyoto)

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

5. Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine (Osaka)

This is the head shrine of approximately 2,300 Sumiyoshi shrines in Japan. It has been favored by locals under the name "Sumiyoshi-san," and it is one of top three popular hatsumode places in Kansai. Every year approximately 2.3 million people visit for hatsumode during the first three days of the New Year. Those who like to travel would definitely want to visit this place, since this shrine worships the deity of the sea and is regarded as having divine favor in protecting maritime traffic as well as in traffic safety. Around the time for New Year countdown, the area around its gate will be very crowded for they close the gate once at 5:00 pm on New Year's Eve, and open again at 10:00 pm. If you want to visit for New Year's worship, please be aware of this.

People thanking for having spent the last year peacefully and wishing for happiness throughout the new year

5. Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine (Osaka)

2-9-89 Sumiyoshi, Sumiyoshi-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka

6. Atsuta Jingu Shrine (Aichi)

It is a shrine with 1900 years of history, and is known for having the largest number of visitors in the Chubu area. It is also famous for enshrining the Kusanagi no Mitsurugi, the sword of the Imperial regalia that is one of three treasures inherited by the successive emperors as a sign of the throne. Every year during the first three days of the New Year, 2.3 million people visit this place. On the spacious grounds there are the separate shrine, 8 auxiliary shrines, and 19 subordinate shrines other than the main building, which makes it worthwhile to look around. The grounds are open all day, so take your time and have a tour around.

There are many ema (a votive horse tablet) with a message written on it wholeheartedly for the worshippers' wishes to come true.

6. Atsuta Jingu Shrine (Aichi)

1-1-1 Jingu, Atsuta-ku, Nagoya-shi, Aichi

7. Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine (Saitama)

This is the head shrine of approximately 200 Hikawa shrines of the areas in or around Tokyo and Saitama, and some of its facilities has 2500 years of history. Its road is one of the longest in Japan and is 2km long in total. It's also famous for its beauty brought by being tree-lined on both sides. During the first three days of the New Year, around 2 million people visit every year. It is thought of as having divine favor in matchmaking, business prosperity, as well as academic achievement. Recently it has also been drawing attention of many people as a sacred power place. Please visit and feel the power of nature in the New Year.

You can even enjoy waiting in a long line if it's done while looking at various stalls which line up on sando.

7. Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine (Saitama)

1-407 Takahana-cho, Omiya-ku, Saitama-shi, Saitama

8. Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine (Fukuoka)

Sugawara no Michizane, the deity of learning, is enshrined here. This shrine is a popular sightseeing place where 8 million people visit to worship annually. The number of visitors during the first three days of the New Year every year is approximately 2 million. Many students visit to pray for school success since the entrance exam season approaches. The sacred tobiume plum tree, white plum blossoms, and red plum blossoms, will start blossoming one by one from the beginning of January, so you might be able to see plum blossoms when visiting for hatsumode if you are in luck.

There are many visitors who draw a fortune at the beginning of a new year, wishing good luck for the whole year.

8. Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine (Fukuoka)

4-7-1 Saifu, Dazaifu-shi, Fukuoka

Hatsumode is an event unique to Japan which occurs during New Year. It is crowded anywhere during New Year, but why not go to hatsumode to enjoy the unique atmosphere? Don't forget to dress warmly if going out.

*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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