As soon as the New Year begins, many Tokyoites visit a shrine for the old Japanese custom known as ‘hatsumode’ or ‘first prayer of the year’.
The whole city is arranged around hatsumode. Trains and buses run all night, and people either visit nearby shrines or queue for Tokyo’s popular shrines like Meiji Jingu shrine and Sensoji temple in Asakusa.
Hatsumode lasts for three days, with shrines getting less crowded as the days pass. The shrine visitors make wishes for the New Year, burn last year’s omamori charms, draw an omikuji foretelling their fortune, drink sweet amazake, and so on.
This old custom is beloved by people of all ages and nationalities, whether they’re Japanese locals, foreign residents or just visiting.