Kanda Shrine
Photo: Nuvisage/DreamstimeKanda Shrine

Hatsumode in Tokyo: traditional New Year visits to shrines and temples

Welcome the new year with a visit to a shrine or temple to pray for good fortune

Written by
Time Out Tokyo Editors
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There are so many ways to celebrate the New Year in Tokyo, but it's hard to go past spending New Year at one of Tokyo's many temples or shrines, some of which even feature the traditional bell-ringing ritual to help rid visitors of their troubles and start 2022 fresh.

One of the most popular traditions in Japan, hatsumode is the practice of visiting a shrine or temple throughout the New Year holidays to pray for good fortune for the coming year. On New Year's Eve, these shrines and temples open their gates in the evening and throughout the night to worshippers wishing to make their first prayers right at midnight. You can line up to be the first to pray when the clock strikes 12, but be warned that it can take some time to reach the inner temple, so dress warmly. After you've finished your prayers, pick up an omikuji – it’ll tell your fortune for the new year.

RECOMMENDED: Check Tokyo's train and subway late-night services on New Year's Eve.

Best hatsumode spots in Tokyo

  • Museums
  • Meguro

The New Year’s celebrations at Gohyakurakanji kick off with the temple’s annual toshikoshi soba (end-of-the-year noodles) event. Toshikoshi soba are traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve and the long noodles are a symbol for a long life. To be part of the occasion, make a reservation by phone (03 3792 6751) and pick up your ticket (¥500) at the temple office before 8.45pm on December 31.

Only 108 people will have the chance to taste the traditional dish, which will be served from 6pm until 9.30pm (last orders 9pm) at the on-site Rakan Chaya teahouse. Participants will be divided into three groups (6pm-7pm, 7pm-8pm and 8pm-9pm), so let the temple know your preferred time when making your reservation.

If you would like to participate in the traditional joya no kane bell-ringing ceremony, too, then book your ticket using the same phone number. The event is limited to 108 people as well and costs ¥1,000. You can ring the bell between 7pm and 8.30pm, but make sure to pick up your ticket at the temple office by 8.15pm latest and head over to the bell before 8.20pm.

Note that the temple grounds are only open until 10pm this year.

  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Asakusa

Asakusa's Sensoji Temple is one of the most popular venues for hatsumode. You'll be waiting in line along the Nakamise shopping street, which is decked out with New Year’s decorations and stalls selling seasonal memorabilia and souvenirs. When you reach the temple, throw a ¥5 coin into the box and make your wish. While the temple grounds are open round-the-clock, the stalls have varied closing times, usually around 5pm.

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  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Suehirocho

Kanda Shrine is home to Tokyo’s biggest traditional festival, the Kanda Matsuri, but it’s also the sacred place to visit when you’re looking for a boost of luck at work. The New Year’s festivities start on January 1 at 12midnight when the temple gate opens to the first sounds of taiko drums in the new year. On the shrine’s official website, you can even see a live-stream of the New Year crowds. The shrine also sells its  omamori lucky charms and omikuji fortune slips online.

  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Kudanshita

Yasukuni is one of Tokyo’s grandest shrines, which opens its gates for its New Year's festivities at 11.30pm on December 31. After making your first prayer of the new year, make sure to pick up an omamori lucky charm or shinsatsu amulet and write down your wish for 2022 on an ema votive plate. The New Year's celebrations at Yasukuni Shrine last until January 4, with a variety of events to enjoy.

The shrine hands out cups of sake and amazake daily from 9am to 4pm. From 10am on January 3, you can enjoy a Japanese archery event, while traditional performing arts are held daily until January 4. Don't miss the New Year swords exhibition at the neighbouring Yushukan war museum. 

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  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Harajuku

Meiji Shrine is one of the most popular places in Tokyo to wish for a happy new year. The shrine stays open throughout the night for your hatsumode visit. At the back of the shrine, after praying and donating, you’ll find a shop filled with special items to celebrate the new year, including omikuji fortune sheets and ema (wooden plaques you can write wishes on) stamped with the zodiac animal of the new year – it's a tiger for 2022.

  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Iidabashi

Tokyo Daijingu, a 'love power spot' popular for weddings, is opening its doors from 11pm on December 31. However, if you visit sometime during the first three days in January between 8am and 10am, you could be one of the lucky 1,000 worshippers each day to be given a small lucky charm featuring the 2022 tiger zodiac sign. The only requirement: you’ll have to buy an omamori charm or shinsatsu amulet to go into the running for the prize.

Don't forget to fill out an ema, a wooden plaque you write a wish on. Besides one with a tiger motif, you'll also find a special Rilakkuma character version this year. Since this is the shrine of love, we're hoping it'll work some magic.

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  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Shiba-Koen

Celebrate hatsumode at Zojoji Temple with the illuminated Tokyo Tower in the background. Get there before midnight to hear joya no kane, the Buddhist act of ringing the temple's bell 108 times. Once the clock strikes midnight, get in line to donate a ¥5 coin and make your wish for the upcoming year. 

There is also a jobone ritual from 11pm, when wishes from the previous year’s hatsumode are burned. We recommend combining hatsumode with hatsuhinode (first sunrise of the year) at Tokyo Tower – after all, it’s right next door. Keep an eye on the temple’s official YouTube channel for a live-stream showing how busy the temple is between December 31 and January 3.

  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Tameike-Sanno

Most hatsumode events attract huge crowds. Hie Shrine, known for its vermilion torii gates reminiscent of Kyoto's Fushimi Inari Shrine, thankfully has a relatively quieter turnout. After saying your first prayers of the new year, check out the ema (wooden prayer plaques); they're decorated in over one hundred designs.

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  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • Takaosan

One of Japan’s prized New Year’s traditions is waking up at dawn on New Year’s Day to catch the sunrise. It even has its own word in Japanese: geikosai, literally meaning ‘festival to welcome the light’. At Mt Takao, just 50 minutes by train from Shinjuku Station, you can see the sunrise and get in a hatsumode visit at the same time.

Starting at midnight, the head priest of Yakuoin Temple will perform several goma fire rituals, culminating in a great screech of conches as the sunrise ignites the mountain summit at around 6.50am. The cable car runs throughout the night and brings you half-way up the mountain, while the lift starts operating from 5am on January 1. Note that you won’t be able to go up to the summit of Mt Takao this year – it’s closed due to coronavirus.

More ways to celebrate New Year in Tokyo

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