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How to Experience Hatsumode in Japan During New Year’s

It is common to perform hatsumode when welcoming the New Year in Japan, so why not experience it for yourself? There are rules and etiquette that must be followed when offering your prayers, so please use this article as a reference if you decide to go.

What is hatsumode?

A popular traditional practice for the New Year is hatsumode. Hatsumode means to go to a shrine or temple for the first time in the new year and incorporates the wish that "the new year is a good year". Although the mainstream thinking is that hatsumode should take place during the matsunouchi period of January 1 to 7, there are various theories such as "only the first day of the year," "the first three days of the year," and "any time in January," so there are no hard and fast rules.

*The photograph is of Kanda Myojin Shrine (Tokyo)

Where is it held?

If you would like to perform hatsumode, go to a shrine or temple. Each shrine and temple has different benefits, such as success in matchmaking, business, academia, etc., so use that as your criteria for selecting the venue. For example, Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto is famous as a shrine for success in business and bountiful harvest, Tokyo Daijingu in Tokyo for matchmaking, and Dazaifu Tenmangu in Fukuoka for academic success.

*The photographs are Meiji Shrine (Tokyo) above and Tofuku-ji (Kyoto) below.

How to Offer Your Prayers

▼Shrine

(1) There is always a torii gate at the entrance of a shrine, so first bow slightly before entering.

(2) The middle of the path to the shrine is for the gods, so walk close to the edges.

(3) Cleanse yourself at the purification fountain before offering your prayers. Take a ladle, fill it with water, and pour it over your left hand first, then your right hand. Pour water into your left hand and rinse your mouth, then pour the water over your left hand again, and finally, lay the ladle down at an angle so that water runs down the handle.

(4) The standard procedure for offering your prayers is "two bows, two claps, one bow." Ring the bell and throw in your offering money, then bow twice towards the altar. Clap your hands twice then put your hands together and pray. Finally, bow once more.

(5) When leaving the shrine, turn towards it after passing out of the torii gate and bow.

▼Temple

(1) Instead of torii gates, temples have sanmon gates. When entering a sanmon gate, bow then pass through it without stepping on the threshold.

(2) As in the case of a shrine, walk along the edge of the path and offer your prayers after purifying yourself.

(3) Purchase candles and incense if they are available. Light them and place them on the candle holder and incense burner.

(4) Give your money offering first at the main temple. If there is a bell to ring, ring it then put your hands together and bow once. Bow once again at the end.

(5) When leaving, bow towards the main temple after passing out of the gate.


*It does not matter how much you give as offering money, but it is said that 65 JPY, 75 JPY, 85 JPY, 95 JPY, and 500 JPY have negative meanings, so better to avoid them. Ten yen coins are also considered to weaken your en (pratyaya) as the word for ten yen in Japanese sounds similar to "toen" which means "distant pratyaya". As the word for five yen has the same sound as "goen" (a formal expression of en), It is common to use five-yen coins to wish for pratyaya.

Get an omikuji

We highly recommend getting an omikuji fortune slip. There are different types of omikuji, but here is the standard way to get them. First, think about the fortune you wish to ask about, such as your prospects at work, in love, or financially, and shake the box with the mikuji sticks in them. The mikuji stick that comes out will have a number on it, based on which you will be given a slip with your fortune for the year.


Generally, there are seven fortunes. Daikichi (great blessing) is the best, followed by kichi (blessing), chukichi (middle blessing), shokichi (small blessing), suekichi (ending blessing), kyo (curse), and daikyo (great curse). Either take the omikuji you get home or tie it in a designated area. Multilingual omikuji are available in more and more places today, so please try it.

Buy amulets and talismans

We also recommend purchasing "omamori" and "ofuda" amulets and talismans that embody wishes such as for health and love. Omamori amulets are meant to be worn at all times and are thought to protect the person wearing it. The ofuda talismans, on the other hand, are meant to be kept at home to benefit the whole family. There are various types, such as for traffic safety, health, and safe childbirth, so choose the appropriate one for your family.

Enjoy outlets and stalls

Another fun element of hatsumode is the outlets and stalls. There is a wide variety of shops including those that sell food, such as yakitori chicken skewers, yakisoba fried noodles, and cotton candy, as well as game stalls where you draw lots to win gifts. Large shrines and temples that are tourist spots tend to have many shops around them, but some do not have any, so be sure to check before you go.

Hatsumode is an experience that is only available for a short period at the beginning of the year. We encourage you to go during the first three days of the year, when there are many people out so you can immerse yourself in the New Year atmosphere.

*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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