Starting the New Year right: tips for a first timer's Hatsumode

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One of the busiest times for religious sites across Japan, Hatsumode is the ritual opening of the New Year with a visit to the nearest Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple. It usually takes place between the first and third of January, with Japanese people lining up to make their first prayers and to grab new omamori charms for the New Year. With millions of people heading out to do this, it can sometimes get really hectic and confusing, especially if you are going for the first time. But don't worry, we have you covered! Below are four things you need to know for your first trip to do Hatsumode.

1.Expect long lines

No matter where you go and what you do on the first three days of January, there will always be long lines! Some of the bigger temples have TVs with commercials running and general information in both English and Japanese to help you during your first Hatsumode. The lines are usually only for those wanting to pray and if you're only there to grab a charm (or to return the ones you got the previous year), you can skip these lines to enter the temple. But be aware that some of the bigger temples will require that you to stay in the line until you get through the main temple gates.

2.Praying properly

Firstly, you should always begin prayers by throwing a coin. A five-yen coin is considered the best luck, but 50 yen is also acceptable. These are also the easiest to find in your coin purse as they have holes in them. After you've thrown your coin, bow twice. Clap your hands while in a straight, standing position and then pray with your hands together in front of you in the usual praying position. After you've finished making your prayer, bow again once to finish.


Omamori is an amulet charm that is supposed to bring you good luck during the New Year. Many larger shrines will have a translation for what sort of luck each omamori brings. Purchase one for the New Year and remember to bring it back to be properly burned next time you do Hatsumode, as the luck stays within the charm only for one year.

4.Getting your fortune for the year: Omikuji

Don't forget to get your fortune read before you leave! Omikuji are usually offered for about 100 yen, or a little more if they come with a charm. These are a few of the different results that you may get:

大吉 Daikichi – Best luck

吉  Kichi – Regular Luck

凶  Kyo – Bad Luck

大凶 Daikyo – Really bad luck

If your fortune reveals bad luck, you might want to tie it to a tree or metal rod, which can be found near the place you pull your omikuji from, and hope that your bad luck won't come true.

Most importantly, remember to have fun! Tourists and expats will not be faulted for making a mistake or two when it comes to Hatsumode. It’s also a good idea to go with some friends because the queues can be hours long!

Written by Crystal Antolin

Tourist Note JAPAN

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Tourist Note JAPAN