Tokyo, Japan – A New Year Hatsumode visit to Meiji Jingu shrine: Around The World

It was my first day in Tokyo. It was my first day in Japan, period. On my wander from Shinjuku toward Harajuku & Shibuya, I passed by the edge of a green, wooded area. It was a nice, bright day, perfect for walking through a park, so I entered. I quickly realized that I was not the only one with this idea. Not only was I not the only one with this idea, everyone appeared to be marching in the same direction toward a common goal. I wanted to find out where all these people were heading, so I followed along.

meiji-shrine-entrance

A bit of the way into the park, I saw a few signs, and it became clear that everyone was headed toward Meiji Jingu shrine. I had stumbled my way into a Japanese New Year tradition called Hatsumode.

Hatsumode is the first Shinto shrine visit of the New Year. These visits are generally made during the first 3 days of January, as this is a national holiday period in Japan. With this being January 2nd, I was right in the middle of the rush. You can read more about Hatsumode on Wikipedia.

There were thousands of people in the queue, but there was no rush. Everyone was patiently waiting their turn to enter the Meiji Jingu Shrine complex. There was a strong police/security presence, but they appeared to mostly be there to guide the crowd and keep everyone safe.

meiji-shrine-new-years-crowds

There were guys with megaphones who were making general announcements to the crowd. I of course had no understanding of what they were saying, given that I knew all of three words in Japanese. My lack of understanding would never be an issue during my time in Japan, but having someone with a megaphone yelling information that may be important is an interesting way to start a trip in a foreign land.

meiji-jingu-shrine-new-year

The security guards also kept the theme of keeping everyone safe by using cartoon characters to get the message across.

meiji-shrine-new-years-crowds

meiji-jingu-shrine-signs

It didn’t take very long to enter the shrine. Visitors go in, say a quick prayer, throw some coins, and then leave to purchase other items such as fortunes on their way out. It’s a very orderly & respectful process.

meiji-shrine-tokyo

meiji-shrine-tokyo-new-year

Not wanting to be in the way, I threw a coin toward the shrine (thank you, vending machines I had been to earlier that day!), made some good thoughts for the New Year, and then moved along. While I am not religious, it was a nice experience to begin the New Year.

Here is a nice video with more details of the process of visiting a Japanese shinto shrine. The process is a bit more tranquil when there aren’t thousands of other people there, but you can get a sense of the experience for a normal visit. In the case of Meiji Jingu, there was no handwashing, though I would encounter this at other shrines later in my trip.

As it was crowded, I skipped the booths where you could purchase a written oracle (omikuji) or charms & amulets (oromamori). I was traveling by myself, and I did not want to impose on anyone to translate my fortune for me.

meiji-shrine-tokyo-charms-new-year-oromamori

meiji-shrine-tokyo-omikuji-new-year

You can do plenty of research before a trip, but the experiences you stumble upon can often be some of the most interesting. Had I not ventured into that Tokyo park, I would have missed a major Japanese tradition. Some 3 million people visit Meiji Jingu Shrine each New Year, which is an astounding number for just a few days. I was glad that I got to be one of them.

More posts from this trip:

Around the World: An Introduction
Global Entry application, interview, & review: Around The World
British Airways First Class & Business Class Terraces Lounge San Francisco SFO Review: Around The World
British Airways First Class 747-400 San Francisco SFO to London Heathrow LHR Review: Around The World
British Airways South Galleries Club Lounge London Heathrow LHR Review: Around The World
A day exploring Madrid, Spain: Around The World
Iberia Dali VIP Lounge Madrid Barajas MAD Review: Around The World
Soller, Mallorca, Spain: Around The World
Valldemossa, Mallorca, Spain: Around The World
Top 10 things to do in Palma de Mallorca, Spain: Around The World
Cathay Pacific First Class & Business Class Lounge Frankfurt FRA Review: Around The World
Cathay Pacific First Class 777-300ER Frankfurt FRA to Hong Kong HKG Review: Around The World
Cathay Pacific The Wing First Class Lounge Hong Kong HKG Review: Around The World
Cathay Pacific Business Class 777-300ER Hong Kong HKG to Tokyo Narita NRT: Around The World
Tokyo, Japan – A New Year Hatsumode visit to Meiji Jingu shrine: Around The World
Tokyo, Japan – Intro to Shinjuku, Harajuku, & Shibuya: Around The World
Tokyo, Japan – Day trip to Mt. Fuji & Kawaguchiko: Around The World
Tokyo, Japan – Shinjuku & Shibuya: Around The World
Tokyo, Japan – Day trip to Kamakura: Around The World
Tokyo, Japan – Shinjuku – Toilets, Arcades, & Robot Restaurant review: Around The World
Craft beer in Tokyo, Japan: Around The World
Tokyu Stay Nishi Shinjuku hotel review: Around The World
Kyoto, Japan – Imperial Palace, Philosopher’s Walk, Ginkakuji Temple: Around The World
Kyoto, Japan – Ryoanji Temple, Kinkaku Temple, & Fushimi Inari Shrine: Around The World
Kyoto, Japan – Day trip part 1, Miyajima: Around The World
Kyoto, Japan – Day trip part 2, Hiroshima: Around The World
Craft beer in Kyoto, Japan: Around The World
Sakura Terrace Kyoto hotel review: Around The World
Tokyo, Japan – Grand Sumo Tournament: Around The World
Japan Rail Pass, Shinkansen, & Narita Express train reviews: Around The World
Japan Airlines First Class Lounge Tokyo Narita NRT review: Around The World
Japan Airlines First Class Suite 777-300ER Tokyo Narita NRT to Los Angeles LAX review: Around The World

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