New Year in Japan starts with Hatsumode

Many Japanese go to a shrine to visit the new year. Three million people visit the shrine in a large shrine like Meiji Shrine and Fushimi Inari Shrine. This is called Hatsumode, meaning first visit to worship, but most people go to the shrine only once a year.

heian jingu

Short history of Hatsumode

The history of the Japanese shrine is said to be about 1500 years, but the honorific custom of visiting the New Year in large numbers has only about 140 years history. It is said that the custom of a New Year visit to the whole country spread by the campaign which a railroad company 140 years ago started to collect passengers. Even now New Year Eve to New Year Day railroad operates 24 hours a day to handle large numbers of passengers.


Hatsumode in Meiji jingu (Edomura no Tokuzo)

Only at the time of the New Year visit, special home is released at JR Harajuku station, and as soon as leaving the ticket gate, it will be connected to the approach of Meiji Jingu. In Ise Shrine, which is considered to be the most prestigious in Japan, many visitors arrive from all over Japan using railroads. Japanese Hatsumode is inseparable from the railway.

Visitors can also visit

Hatsumode is a religious event, but tourists can visit the shrine and pray for the happiness of the new year. Of course, the place of prayer is kept quietly, but many shops opened in the approach road, the surroundings are like a festival atmosphere. Therefore, few Japanese recognize the Hatsubo as a religious event, and are also tolerant of experiencing New Year visit for tourism purposes.

heian jingu

The above Time Lapse Video is the scene of the New Year visit to Heian Shrine in Kyoto. Shops are not opened in the shrine premises, but like the photo below, fried chicken and beer shops stand on the approach. And the worshipers take pictures with the shrine back and upload them to Instagram. Hatsumode is familiar to Japanese as a casual religious event.