New year with Japanese twist

  • Seeing in the New Year
  • First Sunrise
  • Hatsumoude
  • Shopping
  • Dining

Seeing in the New Year

Millions of people visit temples and shrines to see in the new year at the stroke of midnight on January 1st. As midnight draws near on the night of the 31st of December, temples throughout the country start ringing their bells. Known as “Joya no Kane,” the bells are usually rung 108 times in accordance with Buddhist teachings.

Yasaka-jinja Shrine
Heian-jingu Shrine

First Sunrise

In Japan, seeing the sun rise on the 1st of January is considered to bring good fortune, and so people gather on high mountains like Fuji or by the shore to see the first sunrise of the year.

Kyoto Tower
Biwako Kisen


In Japan, the first visit to a shrine or temple is called “hatsumode,” and is when people pray that the new year will be a good one. In most cases, hatsumode is done up until the 3rd of January. Many shrines sell New Year-only good luck charms or lucky goods, and many people visit early on New Year’s Day to buy the same ones each year.

“Lucky Bundles” at the Fushimi-inari Taisha Shrine
Iwashimizu Hachimangu’s Hachiman Sacred Arrows
Red Seals at the Shorin-ji Temple


In Japan, the New Year’s sales are called “hatsu-uri” or “first sales,” and feature products that are available only in the New Year period. One popular item is the “fukubukuro,” or “lucky dip bag.” A range of different items are put in a bag and offered at a low price, but the customer cannot see what is inside. Shops do their best to make fukubukuro more fun, and customers like to test their luck for the new year, choosing carefully in hope of getting a great bargain.

Toraya Kyoto Shijo Minamiza Store
Eirakuya Main Shop
Kanshudo East Branch
Keihan Department Store, Moriguchi Main Store
Kyoto Tower Sando


Restaurants often provide special limited-time-only menu items specially for the New Year. There are plenty of brightly colored dishes that offer great value.

Ramen Muraji Kyoto Gion
Gion Tamejiro’s New Year’s Parfait
New Year special buffet at the Hotel Keihan Kyoto Grande
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