How to make a New Year’s visit

Japanese traditional culture

Hello, this is Yuko.

The year 2021 is ending soon. I’m sure there are many of you who want to make next year a good one, after the COVID! Japanese people make a New Year’s visit to the shrine or temple at the beginning of each year which is called Hatsumode.

Even though Japanese people are not usually religious, many of them go to the Hatsumode. Today, I would like to talk about Hatsumode.

What is Hatumode?

The first visit to a shrine or temple at a New year is called “Hatsumode”. By paying a New Year’s visit, we pray for happiness for the year.

Which should I go to, the shrine or the temple?

Hatsumode can be done either at shrines or temples.

It was only after the Meiji era (1868-1912) that shrines and temples came to be distinguished in Japan. Before the Meiji era, many gods and Buddha were worshipped without distinction. Therefore, you can go to either. However, most Japanese people nowadays tend to go to shrines.

Periods and Times of Worship

Ideally, Hatsumode should be completed by January 3rd, but you should go at least by the end of the period called Matsu no uchi (January 7th in Kanto and January 15th in Kansai).

Matsu no uchi refers to the period when God is present. Ideally, you should go during the period when the gods are present and pray for good health, safety, and peace for the year ahead.

The best time to go is in the morning, if possible. The reason for this is that it is believed that when the sun is out, your mind is clear and you can face your heart.

How to do the worship

Now let’s talk about the actual method of worship. I will introduce how to visit the Shrine in Japan.

From arriving at the shrine to praying

Torii (The gate) and Sando (The approach)

When visiting the shrine, bow before passing through the torii gate. Also, when you are leaving, turn around and bow after passing through the torii gate.

After passing through the torii, walk down the approach. If possible, avoid walking in the middle of the approach, as it is believed that the gods pass through the middle of the path.

Otesui (Washing hands)

Otesui is a place to wash your hands and purify yourself.

How to purify yourself
  1. Hold a ladle with your right hand and fill it with water to purify your left hand.
  2. Next, hold the ladle in your left hand and fill it with water to purify your right hand.
  3. Hold the ladle in your right hand, fill it with water, use your left hand as a vessel to catch the water, and rinse your mouth with the water.
  4. Cleanse the left hand with the water from the ladle, and finally cleanse the handle with the remaining water.

Osaisen (Money offering)

In large shrines, it may be a long way to the money offering box, and people often throw money into the box, but it is a good idea to put it into the box quietly if possible.

The reason for this is that originally, money offering originated from offering food such as vegetables and rice. Just as you would never throw vegetables or rice to make an offering, it would be nice if you could quietly put in the money offering as well.

How to make a wish

After putting your money in the money offering box, ring the bell, and pray in the order of “2 bows, 2 claps and 1 bow”.

When you make a wish, please say these things in your mind.

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Your wish

As a rule, make only one wish. Don’t ask for too much of this or that!

After praying

Let’s draw Omikuji (the fortune)

After you finish praying, try to draw a fortune! It’s called “Omikuji” in Japanese. Through the omikuji, you will receive hints from the gods for your life and livelihood.

The order of fortune written in the fortune note is, in order of best to worst: Daikichi(大吉) > Mid-Kichi(中吉) > Shokichi(小吉) > Kichi(吉) > Suekichi(末吉) > Kyo(凶) > Daikyo(大凶). However, there are some differences between regions.

If you get a bad fortune like Kyo or Daikyo, it is said that tying the fortune note with the opposite hand or tying it in a high place will turn your fortune better.

It is said that bad luck is a sign of rising luck, so don’t worry too much about it.

Popular New Year’s visit locations

So here are some of the most popular places for Hatsumode.

All over Japan

  1. Meiji Jingu (Tokyo) : 3.19 million visitors
  2. Naritasan Shinshoji Temple (Chiba Prefecture) : 2.98 million visitors
  3. Daishi Kawasaki(Kanagawa Prefecture) : 2.96 million visitors

Every year it gets very crowded with many worshippers. In the TV program “Yuku Toshi Kuru Toshi” broadcasted by NHK around midnight on January 1st, scenes of the New Year’s Eve celebrations around Japan are shown, and you can always see the huge crowds at one of these three temples and shrines.

However, I think many people will spread out this year to avoid dense crowds.

In Kansai area

  1. Fushimi Inari Shrine (Kyoto Prefecture) : 2.5 million visitors
  2. Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine (Osaka Prefecture) : 2.34 million visitors
  3. Ikuta Shrine (Hyogo Prefecture) : 1.5 million visitors

The most famous shrines in the Kansai region were ranked in this category.
Of course, it is good to visit famous temples and shrines, but it is also recommended to visit the Ujigami (local deities) who watch over the community on a regular basis.

Let’s welcome the New Year with renewed spirit!

Just because you go to a temple or shrine for your New Year’s visit does not mean that your wishes will come true.

It is important to renew your efforts for the year, report to God that “I will do my best in 2022, so please watch over me,” and devote yourself to it every day.

May it be 2022, a year in which your family gets along well every day, in good spirits, with smiles on your faces!


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