What is Hatsumode
Hatsumode (初詣) is one of the most important traditional annual events in Japan. It literally means "the first (hatsu) shrine visit (mode)", so basically hatsumode is to visit a shrine (or temple) to pray for good luck for the new year.
When to do Hatsumode
People usually visit a shrine with their family between January 1st and 3rd. Most of them have a break until the 3rd day of the new year, which is called "san ga nichi" (literally "three days"). But it is also okay to do hatsumode after that period. Since hatsumode is such a popular tradition, to avoid the crowds, some people prefer to visit the shrines and temples later on.
Where to go to do Hatsumode
You can visit your neighborhood shrine or temple. Here are some popular hatsumode spots in Tokyo if you want to experience a lively, traditional hatsumode!
1-1 Kamizono-cho, Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
1-minute walk from JR Harajuku Station or Meiji-Jingumae Station
2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
5-minute walk from Asakusa Station
2-4-1 Fujimi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
5-minute walk from Iidabashi Station
How to do Hatsumode
There are some traditional ways to visit and pray at shrines.
Purify your hands and mouth
Pour the water over your left then right hand. After that, rinse your mouth using your hands.
After throwing a coin (usually 5 yen - 100 yen) into a box, ring the bell (it's a way to greet the deity). Then, bow twice, clap your hands twice and finally close your eyes to pray. You bow one last time after finishing the praying.
If you will be in Japan at the beginning of January, you should visit a shrine or temple and experience the Japanese tradition of hatsumode which may bring you good luck for your new year.