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Sensoji Temple's main gate lit up at night
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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

By Time Out Tokyo Editors
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Update: Some shrines and temples are restricting their opening hours over the New Year period to avoid crowds. Check the venue websites before heading out.

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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 2021 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 the train and subway times in Tokyo on New Year's Eve – many companies are limiting their services due to Covid-19.

Best hatsumode spots in Tokyo

Gohyakurakan-ji
Gohyakurakan-ji
Photo: Gohyakurakan-ji/Facebook

Gohyakurakanji Temple

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 12.45am on January 1. Only 108 people will have the chance to taste the traditional dish, which will be served from 10.30pm until 2am (last orders 1.30am) at the on-site Rakan Chaya teahouse. Participants will be divided into three groups (10.30-11.30pm, 11.30pm-12.30am and 12.30-1.30am), 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 and head over to the temple by 11.40pm. The event is limited to 108 people as well and costs ¥500. Pick up your ticket at the temple office by 12.45am and head over to the bell before 12.50am.

hie shrine new year
hie shrine new year
Photo: twitter.com/sannouhiejinja

Hie Shrine

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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Kanda Shrine
Kanda Shrine
Photo: 美樹子 柳澤/Pixabay

Kanda Shrine

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 will install vending machines selling omamori lucky charms and omikuji fortune slips, which you can also order online.

Meiji Shrine
Meiji Shrine
Photo: Niphon Subsri/Dreamstime

Meiji Shrine

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Harajuku

Meiji Shrine is one of the most popular places in Tokyo to wish for a happy new year. Due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic and the cancellation of Tokyo's all-night trains on New Year's Eve, the shrine has decided to remain closed throughout the night from December 31 to January 1.

But you can still make your hatsumode visit from 6am on New Year's Day. At the back of the shrine, after praying and donating you’ll find a shop filled with prosperous 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 an ox for 2021.

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Sensoji Temple

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.

tokyo daijingu new year
tokyo daijingu new year
Photo: fb.com/tokyo.jinja

Tokyo Daijingu

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Iidabashi

Tokyo Daijingu, a 'love power spot' popular for couples and 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 2021 ox 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. Since this is the shrine of love, we're hoping it'll work some magic.

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zojoji temple hatsumode new year's
zojoji temple hatsumode new year's
Photo: facebook.com/zojoji

Zojoji Temple

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.

More ways to celebrate New Year in Tokyo

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