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Home - Travel - Essentials
Visiting Japan during New Year

Hatsumode

Visiting Japan during New Year (shogatsu) can be rewarding, as you have the opportunity to experience Japan's most important holiday, but it can also be frustrating, as many tourist attractions, shops and restaurants are closed, and getting around can be inconvenient.

Hatsumode

If you are in Japan during New Year, you can join the crowds doing hatsumode, the year's first visit to a shrine or temple. Hatsumode festivities are held at practically every shrine and temple across Japan.

At popular shrines and temples you can experience a festive atmosphere with food stands and many people lining up for a prayer at the main hall, purchasing lucky charms for a fortunate new year and disposing their lucky charms of the past year. Most atmospheric is a visit to a temple around midnight on New Year's eve, when the temple's bell is rung repeatedly.

Some of the most popular shrines and temples, such as Tokyo's Meiji Shrine, Kyoto's Fushimi Inari Taisha, Osaka's Sumiyoshi Taisha and Kamakura's Tsuruoka Hachimangu each attract more than a million visitors over the first few days of the new year. Expect to line up for more than an hour at the more popular hatsumode sites in order to reach the offering hall for a prayer.

It is a custom to dispose the old year's lucky charms during shogatsu

Emperor's New Year Greeting

On January 2, the Emperor makes several public appearances at the Tokyo Imperial Palace. It is one of only two occasions during the year, when the inner grounds of the palace are opened to the public. (The other is the Emperor's birthday on December 23.)

The Emperor and family members are scheduled to appear on a glass protected balcony around 10:10, 11:00, 11:50, 13:30 and 14:20, waving and shortly speaking to the flag waving crowd.

Transportation

Domestic and international travel activity is intense during the New Year holidays, as many people visit their families on the countryside or undertake domestic or overseas trips.

Travel activity is usually particularly intense from December 29 to December 31 when many urbanites leave the big cities (especially Tokyo) and from January 2 to January 4 when they return home. As a result, trains, airports and expressways get very congested.

In 2013/2014, the travel peak is expected to take place between December 28 and 31 (especially on December 28-29) with people leaving the big cities, and between January 2 and 5 (especially January 4-5) in the opposite direction.

Closures

Many tourist attractions, stores, restaurants, banks and ATMs are closed on one or more days between December 29 and January 4, limiting your sightseeing, shopping and dining choices, especially on January 1.

Museums are typically closed for multiple days over the holiday season. No nationwide pattern can be recognized for gardens and castles, some of which close on multiple days, others on a single day and others not at all. Temples and shrines naturally do not close over New Year.

Shops typically close on January 1, but are open on all other days around New Year. In recent years, an increasing number of shops remain open even on January 1, especially in modern shopping districts and malls of larger cities.

Restaurants typically close on one or more days over the holidays, especially January 1. Many fast food chains, hotel restaurants, as well as the restaurants in the above mentioned modern shopping districts and malls, also open on January 1.

Below is a list of selected tourist attractions from across Japan, indicating closure days (colored red). If an attraction closes already before December 29, the first closure date is mentioned in the field of December 29.

New Year 2013/2014

Tokyo
Sun
12/29
Mon
12/30
Tue
12/31
Wed
1/1
Thu
1/2
Fri
1/3
Sat
1/4
Sun
1/5
Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree                
Imperial East Gardens
12/28
             
Tokyo National Museum
12/24
             
Tokyo Twin Observatories                
Tsukiji Fish Market                
Rikugien                
Odaiba Shopping                
Roppongi Hills                
Shiodome Shopping                

Yokohama
Sun
12/29
Mon
12/30
Tue
12/31
Wed
1/1
Thu
1/2
Fri
1/3
Sat
1/4
Sun
1/5
Landmark Tower                

Kyoto
Sun
12/29
Mon
12/30
Tue
12/31
Wed
1/1
Thu
1/2
Fri
1/3
Sat
1/4
Sun
1/5
Imperial Palace
12/28
           
 
Nijo Castle
12/26
             
Shrines and Temples                

Osaka
Sun
12/29
Mon
12/30
Tue
12/31
Wed
1/1
Thu
1/2
Fri
1/3
Sat
1/4
Sun
1/5
Osaka Castle
12/28
             
Umeda Sky Building                
Osaka Aquarium                

Sapporo
Sun
12/29
Mon
12/30
Tue
12/31
Wed
1/1
Thu
1/2
Fri
1/3
Sat
1/4
Sun
1/5
Beer Museum
12/28
pm
             
Historic Village of Hokkaido                

Chubu
Sun
12/29
Mon
12/30
Tue
12/31
Wed
1/1
Thu
1/2
Fri
1/3
Sat
1/4
Sun
1/5
Nagoya Castle                
Meiji Mura                
Matsumoto Castle                
Hida Folk Village                
Takayama Jinya                
Kenrokuen                

Chugoku
Sun
12/29
Mon
12/30
Tue
12/31
Wed
1/1
Thu
1/2
Fri
1/3
Sat
1/4
Sun
1/5
Korakuen                
Hiroshima A-Bomb Museum                

Shikoku
Sun
12/29
Mon
12/30
Tue
12/31
Wed
1/1
Thu
1/2
Fri
1/3
Sat
1/4
Sun
1/5
Ritsurin Koen                
Matsuyama Castle                

Kyushu
Sun
12/29
Mon
12/30
Tue
12/31
Wed
1/1
Thu
1/2
Fri
1/3
Sat
1/4
Sun
1/5
Hakata Canal City                
Nagasaki A-Bomb Museum                
Glover Garden                
Kumamoto Castle                

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