Now Reports

Hatsumode in Fukuoka 2016-7

So it’s New Year’s Eve and your friends have gone abroad to visit family or on exotic getaways, and you’re in Fukuoka wondering how to make the most of the last night of the year? If you’re willing to throw away ideas of drinking and dancing the night away at a countdown party – or are happy stay up the whole night – you’ll see New Year’s Eve as a great opportunity to experience Japanese traditional culture first hand.

In many ways Oshogatsu, or the Japanese New Year, is more similar to a western Christmas – cards are sent to friends and family (nengajo), families come together, traditional meals are eaten (osechi-ryōri) and there’s a feeling of togetherness and well wishing for the new year.


One of the most important parts of Japanese New Year is hatsumode – the first trip to a shrine or temple. On December 31, some shrines hold big ceremonies: oharaishiki, to purify sins and evils, and joyasai, to give thanks for the previous year’s safety and to pray for peace in the coming year. These ceremonies are free to the public and are a great place to hang out with the locals for the New Year.

From the big and famous to the small and humble, there is a wide variety of shrines in Fukuoka. Fukuoka Now has picked thirteen of the best in Fukuoka City and beyond! Each has a distinguished history and is loved by locals. Don’t miss the New Year events unique to each shrine!

Gokoku Jinja Shrine / 護国神社
Gokoku Shrine is said to have been built in the first year of the Meiji Period. With 3,000 trees surrounding it, the shrine is an oasis of calm, even though it’s located in the middle of the city. The torii, or gate, is made of cypress, stands 13m high and is the symbol of this shrine.

New Year’s Events:
• Dec. 31: Jyoya-sai (New Year’s Eve festival) takes place from 14:00 on Dec. 31.
• Jan. 1: Saitan-sai (New Year’s Day festival) starts from midnight, and omamori and ofuda (good luck charms) are sold. You can also enter a fukumikuji (paper fortune) raffle for ¥500 per ticket; prizes include a round-trip flight to Okinawa and a PlayStatiom 4.
• Jan 7: Nanakusa Festival. From 10:00, you can sample nanakusa-gayu, a rice porridge containing seven seasonal vegetables. Just ¥100 per bowl, only 300 bowls available.

Regular Hours: 09:00~17:00
Address: 1-1-1 Ropponmatsu, Chuo-ku
Access: 5 min. walk from Ohori Park. In front of Gokoku Jinja-mae Nishitetsu Bus stop.
Tel: 092-741-2555

Kego Jinja Shrine / 警固神社
This shrine was moved to its present location next to Kego Park in 1608. Though it stands amongst the office buildings and department stores of Tenjin, it retains a calm atmosphere, making it popular with elderly visitors who come here to rest during the day. The festival held here in autumn is one of the Tenjin’s most popular events of the year.


New Year Events:
• Dec. 31: Various Shinto rites including an oharaisai (purification festival).
• Jan. 1: Saitansai (New Year’s Day festival). You can draw Shogatsu mikuji (New Year fortunes) from midnight on Jan. 1 for ¥100 each, or buy the ¥1,000 mikuji, which includes entry into the raffle which boasts prizes such as domestic trip tickets and electronics.
• Jan. 3: Ganshi-sai (New Year event) on Jan. 3.
• Jan. 9: Locals gather at the Dondo-yaki Festival on Coming-of-Age Day (Seijin-no-hi) and burn shimenawa (holy ornaments made of rope) and other New Year’s decorations to pray for the health and safety of their families in the coming year. The festival starts around 10:00 with hot zenzai (sweet soup made of red beans) available free of charge.

Regular Hours: 9:00~17:00
Address: 2-2-20 Tenjin, Chuo-ku
Access: Behind Mitsukoshi Department Store in Tenjin
Tel: 092-771-8551

Kushida Jinja Shrine / 櫛田神社
This is probably the best-known shrine in Hakata and it is beloved by locals – they affectionately call it “Kushida-san”! It was first constructed in 757. The Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival, one of Hakata’s biggest festivals, begins here. A float from the Yamakasa festival is on display all year.


New Year Events
• 31 Dec: Oharaishiki (purification rite) is held at 16:00, Joyasai (New Year’s Eve festival) from 23:00.
• Tip: You can get an omikuji (paper fortune) for ¥50; or enter the fukumikuji raffle, which is sponsored by Hakata’s biggest companies, for ¥500.
• Trivia: Since the shrine is said to grant prayers related to prosperity in business and perpetual youth, more than 150,000 people visit between Jan. 1~3 every year.

Normal Hours: 04:00~22:00 (all day on Jan. 1~3)
Address: 1-41 Kamikawabata-machi, Hakata-ku
Access: 5 min. walk from Gion or Nakasukawabata subway stations
Tel: 092-291-2951

Sumiyoshi Jinja Shrine / 住吉神社
This shrine was built over 1,800 years ago and is said to be the first ever Sumiyoshi shrine in Japan. There are many historical spots inside the shrine including some with designated cultural heritage status. Live concerts and other events are held on its Noh stage occasionally.


New Year Events:
• Dec. 31: An oharai-shiki (grand purification ceremony) is held on Dec. 31 from 15:00 followed by Joyasai (New Year’s Eve festival). You can partake in the Shinto rites of the oharai-shiki for free.
• Jan 1 ~ 3: Ebisu festival is held from Jan. 1 ~ 3, where you can purchase good luck charms, and draw a fukubiki (¥1,500 each) for the chance to win a trip to an onsen.
• Jan 7: the Tsuina-sai Festival takes place, during which an event called usokae is said to cancel out lies that we made unconsciously during the year. It starts at around 19:00.
• Ritual: At the Joyasai, write down your name and age on a katashiro (paper shaped like a person), pat your body with the paper and blow on it – a ritual said to release your sins.

Regular Hours: 06:00~20:00
Address: 3-1-51 Sumiyoshi, Hakata-ku
Access: 5 min. walk from JR Hakata Sta. or 5 min. from Sumiyoshi Nishitestu Bus stop
Tel: 092-291-2670

Miyajidake Jinja Shrine / 宮地嶽神社
Constructed around 1,700 years ago in Fukutsu, this shrine is regarded as the greatest of Japan’s “Miyajidake” shrines. Dedicated to Empress Jingu, visitors to the shrine pray for all kinds of good luck. This shrine takes great pride in three items: its shimenawa (holy ornament made of rope), its odaiko (Japanese drum), and its osuzu (bell), all of which are regarded as the largest of their kind in Japan. Legend says that Miyajidake’s golden roof was created due to the discovery of golden artefacts near the shrine during construction.

New Year Events:
• Dec. 31: There are three ceremonies at Miyajidake: oharai-shiki (grand purification ceremony), Chinka-sai (Fire Prevention Festival) and Joya-sai (New Year’s Eve Festival).
• Jan. 1: At midnight, the Gantan-sai (New Year’s Festival) begins with the beating of the drum and prayers for peace in Japan and health, safety and thriving business for all.

Hours: 24/7 (shops close at 19:00)
Address: 7-1, Miyajimotomachi, Fukutsu
Access: 5 min. by taxi (25 min. walk) from JR Fukuma Station. Buses available from Fukuma Station.
Tel: 0940-52-0016

Hakozakigu Shrine / 筥崎宮
Hakozaki Shrine is known as one of the main shrines in Japan dedicated to the deity of archery and war, Hachiman. It is said to have been founded in 923, during the Heian period. The guardian deity is the spirit of the Emperor Ojin, who was born in what is now Umi-machi, Fukuoka Prefecture. The shrine’s biggest annual event is Hojoya – held every September to herald the start of autumn in Hakata. Inside the shrine is a traditional Japanese garden with lovely flowers that bloom year-round.

New Year Events
• Jan. 1: Street stalls will line the approach to the shrine for Sangen-sai (New Year’s Festival) – although not on the same scale as Hojoya, it’s still got a great, bustling atmosphere.
• Jan. 3: The Tamaseseri festival sees two teams of loincloth-clad men brave the cold to scramble for possession of an 8 kg wooden ball. Victory for the Beach Team is said to ensure a plentiful catch of fish for the coming year, while a Land Team victory brings a bountiful harvest.
• Tip: For ¥300 get a hatomikuji, this raffle ticket gives you the chance to win prizes ranging from chopsticks to tickets for free travel to an onsen, Nagasaki’s Huis Ten Bosch, and Korea.

Regular Hours: 24/7
Address: 1-22-1, Hakozaki, Higashi-ku
Access: 3 min. by walk from Chikatetsu Hakozakigumae sta. (exit1) / 8 min. by walk from JR Hakozaki Sta.
Tel: 092-641-7431

Torikai Hachimangu Shrine / 鳥飼八幡宮
This shrine is worshipped as the tutelary god shrine in west Fukuoka, with three enshrined deities: Ojin Tenno (Emperor Ojin), Jingu Kougo (Empress Jingu) and Tamayori Hime (Princess Tamayori), the god of matchmaking. People come to pray to the shrine’s “Musubi-no-kami” – God of connections, fortune, ties and matrimony – for good relations and luck in marriage, work, family, study, health and longevity.

New Year’s Events:
• Jan 1: New Year’s Prayers start at midnight.
• Ritual: Lucky charms you can take home include hamaya – arrows with white feathers, believed to stop evil spirits entering your home, and fukukaki – a decorative rake with lucky charms attached.
• Tip: The fukumikuji (paper fortunes) at Torikai Hachimangu are ¥500, and there are no blank tickets so you’re guaranteed a prize! Hello Kitty fans will be excited to see eto (Chinese astrology) mikuji featuring Kitty-chan, which are available for ¥500.

Normal Hours: 9:00~17:00 (Jan. 1: 00:00~19:00)
Address: 2-1-17 Imagawa, Chuo-ku
Access: 1 min. by Jigyo bus stop, 8 min. from Tojinmachi Sta.
Tel: 092-741-7823

Sakurai Jinja Shrine / 櫻井神社
Built in 1632 in Itoshima City, Sakurai Shrine is listed as an Important Cultural Property of Fukuoka. The main shrine and grounds are located inland, and surrounded by forest. The symbolic torii gates in the ocean at Futamigaura are actually part of Sakurai Shrine, and every April ~ May the shrine holds an event in which 60 ujiko (shrine members) walk to the meotoiwa (couple rock) near the torii to change the 1-ton shimenawa (holy ornament made of rope). This peaceful shrine, surrounded by the sea and mountains, is a great spot to visit for those living in Itoshima.


New Year Events:
• Dec. 31: Crowds gather from around 23:00 as locals come to pray for the new year.
• Jan. 10: From 19:00, the shrine holds a unique event called mochimaki – where local men wearing traditional loincloths play-fight over mochi to ward off the evil spirits.
• Tip: Check out their ¥300 Rilakkuma lottery, and buy a tombotama mikuji to enter the lucky prize draw. Make sure to show up on time, as the shrine closes after midnight.

Regular Hours: 24/7
Address: 4227, Sakurai, Shima, Itoshima-shi
Access: by car
Tel: 092-327-0317

Kōra Taisha / 高良大社
Founded in the fifth century, Kōra Taisha is a Shinto shrine in Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture. Measuring in at 17m wide, 13m high and 32m long, the grand building of the main shrine is one of Kyushu’s largest buildings. Its kokerabuki roof is made of a layer of thin cyprus shingles, revealing the origins of the building. The shrine was one of the most important shrines in Chikugo Province. Its torii, built in 1654, and honden (main hall), haiden (hall of worship), and heiden (offertory hall), built in 1661, have been designated Important Cultural Properties.


New Year Events:
• Dec. 31: From mid-afternoon take part in the toshikoshi oharai (grand purification ceremony) for ¥1,000 (apply in advance). Write down your name and age on a katashiro (paper shaped like a person), pat your body with the paper and blow on it – this ritual is said to release your sins. Stay into the evening to see the night view of Chikugo from the shrine.
• Jan. 1: Saitan-sai (New Year’s Day) celebrations begin at 07:00, and attendants pray for peace and security.
• Jan. 3: From 10:00 burizouni (yellowtail soup) is passed out to visitors by locals. Other Shinto rites are performed at the shrine throughout January.

Regular Hours: 9:00~16:30
Address: 1 Miimachi, Kurume City
Access: 15 min. from Kurumedaigakumae, Kyudai Line
Tel: 0942-43-4893

Atago Jinja Shrine / 愛宕神社
Perched on the hill west of the Muromigawa River, Atago Shrine is one of Japan’s main shrines dedicated to the god of Atago, and Fukuoka City’s oldest shrine – it dates back to 72 A.D. The view from the top of the shrine is superb, with views of Momochi area, Fukuoka Tower and the highway to one side and Noko island to the other.


New Year Events:
Dec. 31: Oharai-shiki (grand purification ceremony) is held from 15:00~ and Joya-sai (New Year’s Eve Festival) starts at 23:00.
Jan. 1: From 03:00, the Gantan-sai (New Year’s Festival) involves prayers for peace in Japan and the world.
Tip: The shrine will be busy for all of the hatsumode period – between Dec. 1 and 3 around 500,000 people visit! Stalls sell mochi and luck charms, and you can purchase a daruma paper fortune for ¥500. There are also lots of lotteries, and the atagokuji has no blank sheets, so everyone wins a prize.

Regular Hours: 24/7
Address: 2-7-1, Atago, Nishi-ku
Access: 10 min. walk from Muromi subway station, or get off the bus ‘Atago-shita’, which drops you off at the bottom of Atago hill.
Tel: 092-881-0103

Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine / 太宰府天満宮
Dazaifu Tenmangu is a shrine built over the grave of Michizane Sugawara, venerated by the Japanese throughout the country as the Tenman-Tenjin (the deified spirit of Michizane), or the God of literature and calligraphy. Many traditional Japanese crafts, sweets and chopstick shops line the approach to the shrine. Over 8,000,000 international and domestic tourists flock to Dazaifu each year, making it one of Kyushu’s most important shrines.


New Year’s Events:
• Dec. 31: The oharai-shiki (grand purification ceremony) is held from 16:00~ at Romon-mae, Tenmangu Shrine’s main gate.
• Rituals: Write down your name and age on a katashiro (person-shaped paper ), pat your body with the paper and blow on it – a ritual said to release your sins. No reservation required and payment is on a donation basis. You can also receive a koun mikuji (lucky fortune slip) for ¥500.
• Tip: Try umegaemochi – this sweet is a specialty of Dazaifu!

Regular Hours: 24/7
Address: 4-7-1 Saifu, Dazaifu, Fukuoka
Access: 5min walk from Nishitetsu Dazaifu Station
Tel: 092-922-8225

Tochoji Temple / 東長寺
According to the temple’s history, this ancient temple of the Shingon sect of Buddhism was founded in 806 by Kobo Daishi on his return from Tang Dynasty China. It became the family temple of the Kuroda family as its cemetery began to hold their graves. It holds the “Fukuoka Daibutsu (Great Buddha)”, the largest wooden seated Buddha statue in Japan, completed in 1992 – measuring 10.8 m tall and weighing 30 tons. A national treasure Senjukannonbosatsu (thousand armed statue) and Rokkakudou, a hut-contained Buddhist sanctum, are also on the grounds of Tochoji. On the 28th of each month, the doors of the hexagonal building are opened and the six Buddhist statues inside can be viewed. You can see a range of activities here during the Setsubun festival in February every year, when large numbers of locals gather here.


New Year Events:
• Jan 1: As the clock hits midnight, visitors take turns ringing the temple bells in a ceremony known as joya-no-kanetsuki, to welcome the new year. As this event is very popular, only 200 participants will be able to ring the bell – numbered tickets are distributed in advance (enquire with the temple for more details).
• Jan. 1~3, there’s Gomataki (Sacred Fire Rite for Invocation) at 12:00. Pray for happiness in this Shinto ritual by lighting a gomagi (special piece of wood) on fire.

Regular hours: 9:00~17:00
Address: 2-4, Gokusho-machi, Hakata-ku
Access: Get off at Gion subway station, one minute walk from the station.
Tel: 092-291-4459

New Year’s Lucky Charms!
Shinto practice over the millennia has formed countless auspicious customs and items. Here are a few:

The writings on these individual fortunes are said to be the words of the gods! If the omikuji says you’ll have bad luck, tie it to a pine tree on the shrine grounds. This custom originates from a pun on the words “pine” (松 matsu) and “wait” (待つ matsu), with the idea being that by tying the bad fortune to a pine tree, the bad luck will remain on the tree and not follow you home.


These arrows are believed to ward off demons and protect households in the New Year. The following year, hamaya are returned to the shrine they were purchased from and burned in a purificatory bonfire.


Wishes for the New Year are written onto these wooden plaques, which are then placed at the shrine. The word ema consists of the characters “picture” (絵) and “horse” (馬); horses were a symbolic vehicle of gods and were believed to carry the worshipper’s wishes and ensure that they were heard by the gods .


These charms are for good luck, health, road safety and so on. Different shrines have omamori for different purposes, depending on the deities enshrined there.


OSHOGATSU TIP! The Right Way to Pray at a Shrine
It looks easy, but there is proper protocol. Practice these steps and pray like a pro!

1. お清め Okiyome (Preparation)
Bow and then walk through the shrine’s torii. Stick to the left as the gods walk down the center. Head to the temizuya (stone basin) and pick up a ladle (hishaku) in your right hand and fill it with water. Pour a little over your left hand, then swap hands wash your right. Pour water into the palm of your left hand and bring it to your mouth to rinse. Finally, wash your left hand and tip the remaining water down the ladle’s handle to clean it. Return the ladle face down and head to the shrine.

2. 二拝 Nihai (Two bows)
Toss a coin into the saisen bako (wooden box) to resolve yourself of sins, ring the bell if there is one and bow deeply twice.

3. 二拍手 Nihakushu (Two claps)
Clap your hands together twice, your right hand slightly lower so the fingers reach the top joints of your left hand. Eyes shut and head bowed, express a silent prayer of thanks to the gods for last year’s fortunes.

4. 一拝 Ippai (One bow)
Bow respectfully once more. After leaving through the torii, turn back to the shrine and bow one final time.

Originally published in Dec. 2016.
Copyright Fukuoka Now – including all text, photos and illustrations. Permission required to re-use in any form. Meanwhile, feel free to link to to this page.

NOTE: The information presented here was gathered and summarized by the Fukuoka Now staff. While we have done our best to check for accuracy, there might be errors and details may have changed. If you notice any errors or changes, please contact us.

Art & Culture
Fukuoka Prefecture
Published: Dec 21, 2016 / Last Updated: Jun 26, 2017

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