Now that Christmas is past the real celebrating begins in Japan. The focus of the festivities is of course the coming of the New Year. For those of you who have not had the chance to take part in the events surrounding this important cultural holiday, here is a brief primer of the religious celebration called Hatsumode (初詣), as well as a few places in Nagoya you can go to experience it.

Specifically Hatsumode is the first shrine visit of the New Year in Japan, though some people may sometimes visit a Buddhist temple instead. Most people visit on the first, second, or third day of the year. Generally, wishes for the new year are made, new omamori (charms or amulets) are bought, and the old ones are usually returned to the shrine so they can be burned. There are often long lines at major shrines throughout Nagoya, especially the most popular venue, Atsuta Jingu.

For the first time experience, it is hard to beat venturing off in the cold to the shrine just past midnight. Depending on the shrine there will be bonfires, Amazake (a traditional sweet, low-alcoholic Japanese drink made from fermented rice), as well as sake offered up in cedar boxes. Often there will be yatai as well. The act of worship is generally quite brief and individual. It may well most likely involve queuing at the popular shrines. But if you choose wisely it can be a truly memorable experience.

In Nagoya there are a number of shrines to choose from. Here are just a few we recommend. Note that the subway lines run all night on New Years Eve.

Atsuta Jingu (Shrine) 

3 mins from Jingu Mae station on Meitetsu line/ 7 mins from Jingu Nishi station on Meijo Subway line.

Over 2 million people visit Atsuta shrine alone in the first three days of the year. Hundreds of stands will be set up and open all night

Event Schedule

15:00 Dec 31 2011 Ooharae Shinto purification

5:00 Jan 1 2012 Saitansai a New Year ceremony

0:00 Jan 5 2012 Hatsu Ebisu A festival in which people pray for prosperity in their business, a good harvest and good health.

Osu Kannon (Temple) 

3mins walk from Osu Kannon station on Tsurumai Line

Event Schedule

0:00 Jan 1 2012 Joyano Kanetsuki ringing the watch-night bell

¥1,000 yen per strike, First-come-first-served basis!

Arako Kannonji (Temple)

9mins walk from Takabata subway st. on Higashiyama line / 7 mins from Arako st. on Aonami line

Event Schedule

0:00 Jan 1 2012 Joyano Kanetsuki ringing the watch-night bell

Eveyone who comes before 0:00 can ring the bell (no limit)

¥500 per strike

Kasadera Kannon (Temple)

Just a min walk from Kasadera st. on Meitetsu line

Event Schedule

Jan 1 2012 Joyano Kanetsuki ringing the watch-night bell (starts at around 11:45) Eveyone who comes before 11:45 can ring the bell (no limit)

¥300 per strike

Higashi Betsuin (Higashi honganji Temple – Nagoya betsuin)

Higashi Betsuin st. on Meijo line

0:00 – 2:00 Jan 1 Joyano Kanetsuki ringing the watch-night bell

free of charge, 1 strike per group

Amazake (Sweet sake) will be given out for free

Shiroyama Jingu (Shrine)

Motoyama  / 10 mins. walk from Motoyama Exit #1 (Higashiyama and Meijo Subway Lines)

Well known for the festive mood, great bonfires and amaze. A good choice and somewhat less crowded.

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