Benefits Abound! Five Tokyo Area Shrines and Temples Popular for Hatsumode
If you are staying in Tokyo at the turn of the year, you will definitely want to experience hatsumode (the first visit to a temple or shrine in the new year). Here are five of the most popular shrines and temples in the Tokyo area and the blessings they're famous for.
1. Meiji Jingu
Meiji Jingu, which gets the largest number of hatsumode worshipers in Japan, was established in 1920 to honor Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. The forest surrounding the shrine consists of approximately 100,000 trees donated from across the country. It spans 70 square meters and is beloved by locals as a place to relax. Because of its spaciousness and accessibility despite being in the middle of Tokyo, approximately 3.1 million people visit each year during the first three days of the new year. The shrine is said to bestow various benefits such as academic success, good marital matches, safe travels, the avoidance of disasters, and bringing in good luck. Worshipers are welcome throughout the day on December 31 and January 1, but the grounds are extremely crowded from around 10:00 pm on New Year's Eve to 3:00 am on New Year's Day. If you want to avoid the crowds, a good time to go is early in the morning after the first three days of the year.
2. Naritasan Shinshoji Temple
Naritasan Shinshoji Temple in Chiba is second to Meiji Jingu in the number of hatsumode worshippers. It is a Shingon sect temple established in 940 and has been affectionately referred to as the Narita Ofudosama (Dainichi Nyorai statue). It is said to bestow benefits such as bringing forth good luck, commercial success, and warding off evil and typically receives approximately 3.05 million worshipers during the first three days of the year. On New Year's Day, the New Year Grand Goma Ceremony held to pray for the realization of all wishes includes the goma fire ritual, in which precious items are held near consecrated fire to receive the Ofudosama's blessings. It is definitely worth seeing the powerful scene of numerous monks chanting in front of the burning fire. The area between the Great Main Hall and Prince Shotoku Hall is a famous spot to see the first sunrise of the year, so you may want to brave the crowds and see the first sunrise.
3. Kawasaki Diashi Heikenji Temple
Kawasaki Daishi, which has long been loved as a Yakuyoke Odaishisama (Kobo Daishi to ward off evil), is a Shingon sect temple established in 1128. Its official name is Heikenji. It is said to have great power to ward of evil, and is famous throughout the country. It is also very popular for hatsumode, and approximately 3 million worshipers usually visit during the first three days of the year. The grounds are open all day, but there are limited hours to worship at the Dai-Hondo, so be sure to check in advance. The area becomes festive during the New Year period with numerous shops lining the approach to the temple and Nakamise Street. Why not stop by after worshipping to try out such Kawasaki Daishi specialties as "tonton ame" and "kuzumochi."
Senso-ji, which is the oldest temple in Tokyo, has long been affectionately referred to as "Asakusa no Kannonsama" (Asakusa's Bodhisattva Kannon) and is a popular tourist spot with approximately 30 million people visiting each year. It is also a popular hatsumode spot and usually receives about 2.83 million worshipers during the first three days of the year. Its benefits are commercial success, household safety, and academic success. It closes temporarily at 7:00 pm on New Year's Eve, and hatsumode begins at 0:00 am on New Year's Day when the Joya no Kane bells are rung in the bell tower of Bentenyama. It gets very crowded around the turn of the year with people lining up from around 10:00 pm on New Year's Eve to await the opening at 12:00 am, but the waves of people and strangers giving each other New Year's wishes makes it a great place to get a feel for New Year's in Japan. We hope you'll go and exchange greetings with a wide range of people. It will most certainly become a good memory.
5. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, a major tourist attraction in the historical city of Kamakura, is a shrine with a long and distinguished history going back to 1063. It is one of the most popular hatsumode sites in Japan, and usually receives approximately 2.5 million worshipers during the first three days of the year. It enshrines Emperor Ojin, the deity of fortunes of war and battle and is said to aid in achieving success, wish fulfillment, good luck, warding off evil, and matchmaking. It is open all day from New Year's Eve through the first three days of the year so you can visit any time. A variety of events are held during the first seven days of the year, including the Gohan Gyoji (Offering of the Sacred Seal), where recovery from illness, warding off of evil, health, and safety are wished for by placing a sacred seal on the forehead, so be sure to check their website and attend events that are unique to the New Year period.
There are many more popular hatsumode spots in the Tokyo area, and each one has numerous events unique to the New Year period, so be sure to go on a hatsumode.
*Most places are crowded during the New Year period (around January 1 - 7), so be sure to plan for extra time. Also, don't forget to dress warmly!
*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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