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Recommended Trips for New Year Holiday Travel in Japan!
Famous Shrines in the Kansai area for the First Shrine Visit of the Year

In Japan, various festivals that have a long history and passed-down traditions are held throughout the year. One of the largest winter events is the New Year holidays. In this article, we will pick up 3 spots in the Kansai area which are most popular for the first shrine visit during New Year! All of these spots are well-known tourist attractions, so why not add them as to-go places for your next itinerary? There are some rules and manners to follow when visiting the shrine, so do check them before your visit!
※All information and prices listed are accurate as of October 2020.

 

(1)Sumiyoshi Taisha (Osaka)
(2)Fushimi Inari Taisha (Kyoto)
(3)Kitano Tenmangu (Kyoto)

 

(1)Over 200,000 people in first 3 days!?
   Sumiyoshi Taisha, Osaka

If you are going to stay in the Kansai area, we recommend visiting Sumiyoshi Taisha, the head shrine of Sumiyoshi Shrines nationwide. It handles fortune such as good luck, safe baby delivery, business prosperity, and traffic safety.
At midnight on January 1st, when the New Year starts, taiko drums are beaten, and at the same time, the applause of the attendees echo, and it is packed with people who pray for happiness and good lucks for the new year.
Alongside with first shrine visit of the year, there are many special events such as the "Shiwasu Oharaishiki" (December Purification Ritual) and "Joyasai" (New Year’s Eve festival) held at 5:00PM on December 31st to dispel the sins and impurities of the old year. In the early morning of January 1st, the priest puts the first water pumped from the divine well and into a bamboo tube and offers it to the gods in the Wakamizu ceremony. On the 4th, the Toka Shinto Ritual is held, and in the 7th there’s the Aouma Shinji (Ritual of the White Horse). At the “Aouma Shinji ritual”, the divine horse goes around the main shrine. It is said that seeing the white horse at the beginning of the year dispels evil spirits. Also, the main shrine of "Sumiyoshi-zukuri (a national treasure)", which was constructed in 1810 and has one of the oldest shrine architecture styles in the history of shrine architecture, is also a must-see.

Address: 2-9-89 Sumiyoshi, Sumiyoshi-ku, Osaka-shi
New Year Schedule:
[Shiwasu Oharaishiki Ceremony / Joyasai Festival] December 31st 5:00 PM~ [Wakamizu Ceremony] January 1st 5:00 PM~
[New Year's Day] 6:00 PM~
Access: About 3 minutes on foot going east from "Sumiyoshi Taisha Station" on the Nankai Main Line
※We are calling for dispersed prayers for the New Year's visit in 2021. Please come for your first visit by February 3. There will be no stalls at the end of the year and the beginning of the year.

 

(2)“O-Inari-san” with a history of over 1300 years
Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Taisha, the head shrine of all Inari Shrines, which is said to have about 30,000 in Japan. From 3:00PM on December 31st, the "Oharaeshiki ritual" will be held to dispel "Sins". Then, the “Joyasai festival" is held to thank the guardians of Inari Okami for a safe year for the year to end, and from 6:00AM on January 1st, the "Saitansai Festival" is held to celebrate the New Year and pray for the peace for the new year. It’s held at the main shrine and is attended by lots of people. Be sure not to miss the main shrine, which has been designated as an important cultural property, and the vermilion-coloured tower gate, which is said to have been donated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (a famous ruler of Japan) in 1589. On the approach to the shrine, there are stalls selling things such as quail yakitori and sparrow yakitori (winter only) and "Inari Senbei" made with fragrant roasted sesame seeds, and the "Kitsune Senbei" with the motif of a "Fox" is also popular as a souvenir.

 

Address: 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchi-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto
Schedule: December 31st 3:00PM〜 Oharaeshiki ritual, January 1st 6:00AM〜 Saitan festival.
Access: A short walk from Inari Station on the JR Nara Line

 

(3) Pray to pass exams and for the safety of your family in the New Year!
"Kitano Tenmangu", Kyoto

Kitano Tenmangu, the head shrine of the 12,000 Tenmangu and Tenjinsha shrines nationwide, enshrines the god of learning and cultural entertainment, Sugawara no Michizane. In particular, it is famous as a worshipping spot that is super popular among students taking entrance exams and exams for qualifications. 

 

In particular, there are many events during the New Year holidays. On December 31st, there is the "Oharae" ritual using Katashiro paper dolls (a ritual where filth of the mind and body will be entrusted to the dolls) to cleanse the sins and injuries that they have acquired, and a Shinto ritual "Joyasai" is held to convey the safety of the old year and pray for the peace in the New Year.
In the evening, a traditional ritual "Hinawa Juyo" is held, in which a slow match is lit with a purification fire, and if the fire is used to cook New Year's ozoni, etc., you can spend a year without illness. On the first day of the new year, the Saitansai Festival is also held, and more than 700,000 people visit to pray to pass examinations and for the safety of the family. Be sure not to miss the national treasure "Gohonden" of Momoyama architecture situated in the shrine precincts. It is also recommended to try stroking the "Nadeushi" (stroking ox), which is believed to make you smarter when you stroke its head.
Kyoto is famous for tofu skin and delicious pickles, and there are lots of Japanese restaurants in the area around Tenmangu, so why not visit for lunch or a break before or after your shrine visit?

 

Address: Kitano Tenmangu Office, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto City
Schedule: (December 31st) New Year's Eve ritual, (January 1st) Saitansai festival
Access: Take the city bus 50 or 101 from JR Kyoto Station to Kitano Tenmangu-mae bus stop and it’s right by the bus stop

 

Refer to the following for more information on the facilities mentioned in this article

 

Kansai

https://www.japan.travel/en/destinations/kansai/

Osaka

https://www.japan.travel/en/destinations/kansai/osaka/
https://www.japan.travel/en/travel-directory/Osaka/
http://www.kyototourism.org/en/

Kyoto

https://www.japan.travel/en/destinations/kansai/kyoto/
https://www.japan.travel/en/travel-directory/Kyoto/
http://www.kyototourism.org/en/

Don’t miss out! 3 Convenient Passes for Going Around the Kansai region
https://www.japan.travel/en/my/enjoy-smart-trip-travel-passes/dont-miss-out-3-convenient-passes-going-around-kansai-region/

Sumiyoshi Taisha:
http://www.sumiyoshitaisha.net/en/

Fushimi Inari Taisha:
http://inari.jp/en/

Kitano Tenmangu:
https://kitanotenmangu.or.jp/top_en.php

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