Hatsumode (初詣) is the first shrine visit of the New Year.
The first character 初 means “first,” and the second character 詣 means “attend” or “visit a shrine.”
Most of Japanese are off work from December 29 untill January 3rd, but people often visit shrines right after midnight when the New Year’s Eve turns the New Year’s Day. Visiting shrine at midnight is also a good excuse for young people who live with their parents to go out by themselves so late in the evening.
In contrast to New Year’s Eve, the atmosphere of hatsumode is light and festive. For the visitor, hatsumode is a chance to see many Japanese, especially women and children, fully decked out in colorful kimono.
Many visit on the first, second, or third day of the year. Visitors offer some change (or bills!) and ring the bell at the main shrine building, then pray and wish for a peaceful and prosperous new year. There are often long lines at major shrines throughout Japan. Until the 19th century, it was normal to visit the local Shinto Shrine which protected the family, called Ujigami (氏神), but nowadays it is normal to visit a famous, powerful Shinto Shrine. Most people visit the Meiji Jingu Shrine (have millions of visitors over the three days) during this time with the next largest showing at the kawasaki Haishi Temple in Kanagawa Prefecture.?
Generally, whishes for the new year are made, new omamori (charms) are bought, and the old ones are returned to the shrine so they can be burned. There are various kinds of them, which gives you good luck in studying, health, love, etc.
A common custom during hatsumode is to buy a written omikuji (means oracle). If your omikuji predicts bad luck you can tie it onto a tree on the shrine grounds, in the hope that its prediction will not come true. The omikuji goes into detail, and tells you how you will do in various areas in your life, such and business and love, for that year. Often a good-luck charm comes with the omikuji when you buy it, that is believed to summon good luck and money your way.
?If you want to visit a shrine in Japan, the correct praying ritual is as follows:
1 – Before you enter the premises of a shrine, bow in front of the Torii- the shrine gate.
2 – After going through the gate, wash your hands at the small fountain and move forward to the main building where the gods are enshrined.
3 – Now throw Saisen (money offered to gods) in the Saisen-box and ring the bell.
4 – Bow twice, clap twice, then pray to and thank the gods in silence.
5 – Lastly, bow again before you leave the main building.