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Home - Travel - Essentials - Sean's Japan Travel Journal
Tokyo New Year Report

Sean's Japan Travel Journal
by Sean, staff writer of japan-guide.com

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2013/01/02 - Tokyo New Year Report

Sensoji

A very Happy New Year to all. Wishing everybody a 2013 blessed with health and happiness.

Another exciting year begins here at japan-guide. You might have already noticed, but we have marked the start to this year with a new layout for our website. Here's to more good times of sharing about Japan together.

My first entry this year is about my trip to Tokyo today. Traditionally, the capital is much less crowded than usual over the New Year holidays, as many Tokyoites return to their hometowns to celebrate. Stores and attractions may be closed over the period for a varying number of days, although it is an increasing trend that large stores open even on January 1.

Arriving at Ikebukuro before 9am, I immediately noticed significantly less packed trains, despite it being what would be the usual rush hour. Hundreds were queuing up outside the multiple entrances of Tobu department store, waiting to enter and take part in its New Year sales. January 2, I heard, is a great day for shoppers as stores offer good bargains to kick off the year.

Outside Tobu department store

An empty-looking subway car

January 2 is also special because it is only one out of two days in a year that the inner grounds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace are open to the public. I found myself outside the palace's moats before its opening time at 9:30, but there were already thousands queuing up before me. The queue was however as usual orderly, efficient and smooth. It took about an hour before I arrived in front of the podium, where the emperor makes several appearances on this day. Waiting amongst the excited masses, I felt anticipation built up as time ticked towards the scheduled appearance; then, his majesty graced with his presence, to an eruption of cheers and a sea of fluttering rising suns.

Queues at the Imperial Palace

Staff were handing out flags

To the Imperial Palace!

Sea of waving flags

The Emperor and members of the Imperial Family

The Emperor making a short speech

Imperial Household Agency building

While scores of the working population in dark suits seemed to have disappeared from the city on this day, those that remained seemed to have transformed into the shopping population, as jovial crowds hit the streets at Harajuku and Omotesando. Most stores have already reopened, starting the year with sales. Fukubukuro (fortune/lucky bags) were offered by many merchants. These are goods packaged together and sold at a huge discount off their usual individual prices.

Shoppers were out in numbers

Only a few shops remain closed

Takeshita Shopping Street

Fukubukuro

Hatsumode is one's first visit to a shrine or temple in the year. My hatsumode this year was to Meiji Shrine, said to be the most visited shrine over the New Year period in all of Japan. Judging by the number of fellow visitors, it is definitely no exaggeration when they say about three million people visit this shrine on the first three days of each year. Everybody was in good spirits, and there was a lot of activity going on besides the usual prayers: people were drawing fortune lots, writing their wishes on wooden tablets (ema) and purchasing lucky arrows.

Entering Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine)

Signboards were held up to regulate crowd traffic

Lots of coins as offering at Meiji Shrine

A child getting ready to make her offering

Ladies in traditional wear

Ema: someone wishes to enter a school of choice, another wishes to become an idol

Drawing a fortune lot

I made my way to Ginza next, known to many as the most upmarket shopping area in Tokyo. There was a lot of shopping activity going on here too, as huge department stores and other retailers were holding sales of their own. Like at Harajuku, most of the shops have reopened, although some have slightly shorter than usual operating hours today. Almost every retailer offered some kind of fukubukuro - even a fast food restaurant had one with fast food coupons and some merchandize.

Ginza

Shopping crowd

Shopping crowd 2

Sales at department stores

Streets of Ginza

Streets of Ginza 2

Sensoji Temple at Asakusa is also a popular destination for hatsumode. I heard that since the opening of the Tokyo Skytree last year, more have turned up this year after sunset because they can view the illuminated Skytree as well. I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere at Sensoji today: the buzz at the Nakamise Shopping Street, the festive lighting, and the enjoyment of observing what others were doing at the temple grounds.

Nakamise Shopping Street

Sensoji Temple

Tokyo Skytree

Showering with incense smoke for purification

Entering the main hall

Daruma Dolls for making wishes

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List of Posts:
2014/05/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate
2014/05/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsumae
2014/04/23 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko
2014/04/17 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takato
2014/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko
2014/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2014/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2014/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hikone
2014/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2014/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsuyama
2014/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2014/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2014/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2014/03/06 - Shopping around Northern Osaka
2014/01/23 - Nikko in Winter

2013/12/31 - Sean's Travel Highlights 2013
2013/12/06 - Kamakura Report
2013/11/26 - Tokyo Report
2013/11/22 - Kyoto Report
2013/11/21 - Miyajima Report
2013/11/19 - Korankei Report
2013/11/18 - Kyoto Report
2013/11/11 - Sakurayama Report
2013/11/08 - Karuizawa Report
2013/10/29 - Nikko Report
2013/10/18 - Nasu Report
2013/10/17 - Nikko Report
2013/10/14 - Mount Fuji Report
2013/10/10 - Oze Report
2013/09/27 - Alpine Route Report
2013/09/13 - Nakanojo Biennale 2013
2013/08/07 - Exploring Tokyo 2: Around the Tokyo Imperial Palace
2013/05/20 - Tottori Sand Museum 2013
2013/05/07 - Fuji Shibazakura Festival
2013/05/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2013/05/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate
2013/04/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kitakami
2013/04/23 - Northern Kanto Flower Report
2013/04/17 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takayama
2013/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsumoto
2013/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kanazawa
2013/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2013/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Gunma
2013/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2013/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/03/31 - Visiting Shodoshima for the Setouchi Triennale 2013
2013/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2013/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2013/03/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/03/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/03/12 - Tokyo Early Cherry Blossom Report
2013/02/17 - Tokamachi Snow Festival
2013/02/16 - Zao Snow Monster Report
2013/02/15 - Yokote Kamakura Festival
2013/01/10 - Winter Visit to Manza Onsen
2013/01/02 - Tokyo New Year Report

2012/12/31 - Sean's Travel Highlights 2012
2012/12/11 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Takaosan
2012/11/16 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/15 - Autumn Color Report: Shosenkyo
2012/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Yamadera
2012/11/06 - Autumn Color Report: Naruko
2012/11/05 - Autumn Color Report: Hiraizumi
2012/11/01 - Autumn Color Report: Kuju
2012/10/26 - Autumn Color Report: Minakami
2012/10/24 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2012/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Norikura
2012/10/12 - Autumn Color Report: Oze
2012/10/09 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2012/10/05 - Autumn Color Report: Route 292
2012/09/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kurodake
2012/09/27 - Autumn Color Report: Kogen Onsen
2012/09/26 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2012/09/17 - Exploring Tokyo: Gate Bridge
2012/08/20 - Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial 2012
2012/06/27 - Hiking at Mount Azuma
2012/06/18 - Legoland Discovery Center opens in Odaiba
2012/06/18 - Hydrangea Flowers in Kamakura
2012/06/04 - Tokyo Skytree
2012/05/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sapporo
2012/05/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate
2012/05/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2012/04/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2012/04/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate
2012/04/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kitakami
2012/04/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiraizumi
2012/04/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2012/04/24 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukushima
2012/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kanazawa
2012/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2012/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2012/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2012/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2012/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kagoshima
2012/03/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/03/08 - Plum Blossom Report from Kairakuen, Mito
2012/03/07 - Trip to Iwaki, Fukushima
2012/02/21 - Plum Blossom Report from Tokyo
2012/01/30 - Skiing in Inawashiro, Fukushima
2012/01/27 - Kusatsu Hot Springs

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