First Shrine Visit of the Year初詣


Crowd of worshippers before a big torii gate at Fushimi Inari Taisha during the Hatsumōde period.

No matter how religious a person is or isn’t in Japan, they likely participate in hatsumōde, the first shrine or temple visit of the year.  Viewed as a proper way to start the year, some people line up hours before on New Year’s Eve  though it’s generally considered acceptable if you don’t go on January 1st as long as you go within the first week.

During hatsumōde, people visit either a local shrine or a particularly famous one in order to pray for good luck or for something else they desire for the coming year, such as success, romance, good grades, or good health.  Various shrines and temples hold special rituals or offer things like a small sip of sake for visitors, and many people take this opportunity to purchase a hamaya, a special arrow charm displayed in the home for good luck, available only in the New Year season.

Some of the most popular locations in Kyoto for this first shrine visit of the year are Fushimi Inari Taisha, Jishu Shrine, Kitano Tenmangū, Shimogamo and Kamigamo Shrines.  Wherever you decide to go, it’s sure to be an experience!