New Year’s in Tokyo 2021: All you need to know when visiting a shrine or a temple

Hatsumode, the first shrine or temple visit of the new year, is an important event in Japan. Not only for Japanese but also for foreign residents, visiting a shrine on New Year’s day to celebrate the beginning of the new year has become a new tradition. However, hatsumode in 2021 is different than previous years. COVID-19 is still spreading in and outside Japan, making it important to prevent crowds. In this article, we are introducing popular shrines and temples that tend to get crowded for hatsumode, and everything you need to know before visiting!

Zojoji Temple

Zojoji Temple is a temple with a history of about 600 years. The temple is directly linked to the Tokugawa Shogunate who started the Edo Shogunate in Edo (former Tokyo) about 400 years ago. It is also known for the Tokugawa Family Mausoleum and the Zoujoji Treasure Exhibition Room. With Tokyo Tower rising majestically behind Zojoji Temple, you can enjoy a scenery with both old and new.

Hatsumode at Zojoji Temple

A big fire for burning old amulets.

At Zojoji Temple, the ‘joya no kane’ (Bell Ringing on New Year’s Eve) event will take place as usual at midnight. The memorial service ‘jobonkai’ during which old omamori (amulets), talismans, ancestral tablets, etc. are burnt in a big bonfire will also be held as usual. However, this year, there will be no tents on the temple’s precincts selling amazake and other treats.
Zojoji Temple asks all worshipers to cooperate in infection prevention measures such as hand washing and cough etiquette.

Zojoji Temple is offering a live-camera service that allows you to check online beforehand how crowded the precincts are.
Period: December 31, 2020 – January 3, 2021

→ Zojoji Temple official YouTube channel:

“Crowding” forecast map:
The temple has released a three-color-coded map showing busy hours, slightly crowded hours, and vacant hours. Please try to avoid busy hours as much as possible.

A translation of the map (Taken from the website of Zojoji Temple)

Information about Hatsumode: https://www.zojoji.or.jp/event/ev_hatsumoude.html (Japanese)

Zojoji Temple

4-7-35 Shibakoen, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/FRdvJHB1Ym9iwqUz5
Nearest stations: Hamamatsucho Station, Onarimon Station, Shibakoen Station, Daimon Station, Akabanebashi Station, Kamiyacho Station

Toyokawa Inari Betsuin

Many people pray for prosperous business at Toyokawa Inari in Akasaka, Tokyo. Among them are a lot of entertainers, TV stars and “Johnny’s Office”, a famous entertainment agency in Japan. When you look closely at the lanterns displayed at the building offering amulets and fortune-telling sheets, you will realize that the names written on them are all names of entertainers and idol groups! In other words, entertainers give lanterns to this temple to show their gratitude. The temple seems to work wonders!

Also, apart from the prosperity of business, the temple is famous for its statues of the “Seven Lucky Gods” on its grounds. Also, there is an incredible number of Inari-sama fox statues. It’s a sacred place with many gods!

This is one of the Seven Lucky Gods

Hatsumode at Toyokawa Inari Betsuin

On January 1st, you may visit Toyokawa Inari Betsuin starting at midnight. Usually, it gets the most crowded during the hours between 10:00 and 15:00, so please try to avoid this timeframe as much as possible.
Please wear a face mask, sanitize your hands, and try to keep some distance from other visitors. Also, if you aren’t feeling well or if you have a fever, please refrain from visiting. In addition, no tea or sweets will be distributed in 2021. Furthermore, there won’t be any tents selling food or drinks.

January 1st: 0:00 – 20:00
After January 2nd: 5:30 – 20:00

Hours for obtaining amulets, etc.:
January 1st: 0:00 – 19:00
January 2nd-7th: 6:30 – 18:00
January 8th-11th: 8:30-17:00
After January 12th: usual business hours

Information about Hatsumode: http://toyokawainari-tokyo.jp/wp/?p=388 (Japanese)

Toyokawa Inari Betsuin

1-4-7 Motoakasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/8zcH9nVs8DiagEDY6
Nearest stations: Akasaka-mitsuke Station, Nagatacho Station, Aoyama-itchome Station

Atago Shrine

Atago Shrine is located on a naturally formed mountain. You can take a taxi or escalator to the top, but be sure to climb the legendary “stairs of success”. A long time ago, a vassal of the shogun showed his courage by riding his horse up the mountain to pick a plum blossom for the shogun. the story says that he got a promotion afterward. That’s why today, many people climb the stairs of the mountain hoping for a promotion or success in their field of work.

Atago Shrine is a very photogenic shrine with lots of greenery and a pond. The bright red torii gate surrounded by big trees is especially impressive.

Hatsumode at Atago Shrine

It is expected that many people will visit the shrine between January 1st to 3rd, so if you can, please avoid these days and instead come in the time period from January 8th to February 3rd (Chinese New Year). However, there won’t be any admission restrictions. To avoid crowding, please wear a face mask and make your wishes outside the main hall at one of the offertory boxes.

From December 28, 2020, to February 2, 2021, a device called “Wash Mist” (= whole body sanitizer) will be installed in the precincts. If you like, please pass the mist before entering. (But you don’t have to!)
The “Night Festival” and the “Nanakusa Fire Festival” on January 7, 2020, which starts at 23:45 on December 31, 2020, will be open only to shrine officials.

Hatsumode information: https://www.atago-jinja.com (Japanese)

Atago Shrine

1-5 Atago, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/x25Q1Wpy1uHYTenx7
Nearest stations: Kamiyacho Station, Toranomon Hills Station, Toranomon Station, Onarimon Station

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