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Hatsumode in Fukuoka 2021

For many of our readers, this will be their first time to spend New Year’s Eve in Japan, which presents an excellent opportunity to experience Japanese traditional culture first hand. Of course, the impact of the spread of the COVID-19 virus means it won’t be as usual here either, but below is a guide we prepared before the second wave arrived earlier this month. All events mentioned here are subject to change, so please check before heading out, and reconsider going out anywhere, for that matter. Stay informed, practice social distancing, masking, and other best practices, and above all, be safe for your own sake and the sake of those around you. 

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. Some shrines hold big ceremonies that 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. In western Japan, it’s custom to visit three shrines within the first three days of the year. Locals usually visit one in their neighborhood, but some like to visit the famous ones, and Fukuoka Now has picked thirteen shrines in Fukuoka City and beyond! Why not make a pilgrimage of your own?

*Every year, temples and shrines are crowded with worshipers from New Year’s Day, but in the new year of 2021, many temples and shrines call for distributed worship to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. There will likely be restrictions on worship, so check the official website before visiting shrines, temples, and surrounding areas.

Photo: photoAC

Oharai-shiki (Purification Festival): This purification ritual is held so that people can cleanse their lives of mistakes or misdeeds from the previous year. Worshippers also offer prayers to ensure a healthy, fruitful year ahead.

Joyasai (New Year’s Eve Festival): A religious ritual conducted on New Year’s Eve that is held to express gratitude for safety during the previous year safety and peace in the year ahead.

Saitansai (New Year’s Day Festival): During this ritual, worshippers pray for the prosperity of the country, the imperial family, and for a good harvest.

Chuo Ward, Fukuoka

Gokoku 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 13 m high and is the symbol of this shrine.

New Year’s Events:
12/31 (Thu.): Oharae (purification ritual) 14:00~, *ritual only – closed to public
1/1 (Fri., hol): Saitansai
1/2 (Sat.): Futsukasai (second day of the year event)
1/3 (Sun.): Genshisai (New Year event)
1/7 (Thu.): Emperor Showa Musashino Burial Tomb worship 9:00~, Nanakusa Festival 10:00~
*This year attendees will get Nanakusa Mochi instead of Nanakusa-gayu (2 pieces, ¥300 with a lucky charm)

• New Year opening hours: 9:00~17:00
1-1-1 Ropponmatsu, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
• Access: 5 min. on foot from Ohori Park, in front of Gokoku Jinja-mae Nishitetsu Bus stop.
092-741-2555
http://fukuoka-gokoku.jp/

Kego 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:
1/1 (Fri., hol.): Saitansai 0:00~ *ritual only – closed to public
1/3 (Sun.): Genshisai (New Year event) *ritual only – closed to public
1/11 (Mon., hol.): Dondo-yaki Matsuri 10:00~

• New Year opening hours: 24/7
2-2-20 Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
• Access: 3 min. on foot from Tenjin Sta. (Fukuoka City Subway), 1 min. on foot from Tenjin Kego Jinja/Mitsukoshi-mae bus stop, 1 min. on foot from Nishitetsu Fukuoka (Tenjin) Sta.
092-771-8551
http://www.kegojinja.or.jp/

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 Kogo (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:
1/1 (Fri., hol.): Saitansai *ritual only – closed to public
1/3 (Sun.): Genshisai

• New Year opening hours: 12/31~1/1 open until ~3:00, reopen 7:00~
2-1-17 Imagawa, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
• Access: 1 min. on foot from Jigyo Nishitetsu bus stop, 8 min. on foot from Tojinmachi Sta.
092-741-7823
http://hachimansama.jp

Hakata Ward, Fukuoka

Kushida 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 most of the year except Jun.

Photo provided by the City of Fukuoka

New Year Events:
12/31 (Thu.): Oharae (purification ritual) 16:00, Joyasai 23:00 *Joyasai – ritual only
1/1 (Fri., hol.): Saitansai 0:00~ *ritual only
1/3 (Sun.): Genshisai (New Year event) 10:00~ *ritual only

• New Year opening hours: 24/7
1-41 Kamikawabata-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
• Access: 5 min. on foot from Gion or Nakasu-Kawabata Subway Stations
092-291-2951
http://hakatanomiryoku.com/spot/櫛田神社

Sumiyoshi 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.

Photo: PhotoAC (irumam)

New Year Events:
1/1 (Fri., hol.) : Saitansai 0:00~ *ritual only – closed to public
1/3 (Sun.): Ebisu Festival 9:00~ *ritual only – closed to public
1/7 (Thu.): Tsuina Festival takes place, during which an event called usokae is said to cancel out lies that we made unconsciously during the year 19:00~

• New Year opening hours: 6:00~19:00
3-1-51 Sumiyoshi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
• Access: 5 min. on foot from JR Hakata Sta. or 5 min. on foot Sumiyoshi Nishitetsu bus stop
092-291-2670
https://www.nihondaiichisumiyoshigu.jp/

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 Senjukannon Bosatsu (thousand armed statue) and Rokkakudo, 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:
12/31 (Thu.): Joyasai 18:00~ *limited to the first 108 people
1/1 (Fri., hol.): New Year Prayer festival 12:00~
1/2 (Sat.), 1/3 (Sun.): New Year Prayer festival 12:00~

• New Year opening hours: 9:00~17:00
2-4 Gokusho-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
• Access: 1 min. on foot from Gion Subway Sta.
092-291-4459
http://hakatanomiryoku.com/spot/南岳山%E3%80%80東長寺

Higashi Ward, Fukuoka

Hakozaki 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 which is held every September to herald the start of autumn in Hakata.

New Year Events:
12/31 (Thu.) Oharae (purification ritual) 15:00, Namako mochitsuki (mochi-pounding) 19:00
1/1 (Fri., hol.): Sangensai (New Year’s festival) 7:00

• New Year opening hours: 1/1 (Fri., hol.), 1/2 (Sat.) 0:00~22:00, 1/3 (Sun.) 6:00~22:00, 1/4 (Mon.) 6:00~19:00
1-22-1 Hakozaki, Higashi-ku, Fukuoka
• Access: 3 min. on foot from Hakozaki-Miyamae Subway Sta. (Exit 1), 8 min. on foot from JR Hakozaki Sta., 3 min. on foot from Hakozaki Nishitetsu bus stop, 2 min. on foot from JR Hakozaki 1-chome bus stop
092-641-7431
http://www.hakozakigu.or.jp/

Kashii Shrine (香椎宮)

Kashii Shrine is said to have been built in the year 200. Its honden (main shrine) was made using a unique and complex architectural style called Kashii tsukuri and is a designated Important Cultural Property of Japan. Kashii tsukuri can be seen only in Kashii Shrine, so don’t miss this opportunity to admire the architecture. Make sure to visit the 1800-year-old, unusually-shaped sacred Japanese cedar tree in the shrine grounds, too.

New Year Events:
12/31 (Thu.): Oharae (purification ritual) 14:00~16:00 *reservation required in advance, Joyasai 16:00~ *ritual only – closed to public
1/1 (Fri., hol.): Saitansai 3:00 *ritual only – closed to public

• New Year opening hours: 24/7 (1/1〜1/7)
4-16-1 Kashii, Higashi-ku, Fukuoka
• Access: 4 min. on foot from JR Kashii-Jingu Sta., 13 min. on foot from JR Kashii Sta., 12 min. on foot from Kashiigu-mae Nishitetsu bus stop
092-681-1001
http://kashiigu.com/

Nishi Ward, Fukuoka

Atago Shrine (愛宕神社)

Perched on the hill west of the Muromi 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:
12/31 (Thu.): Oharae (purification ritual) 15:00, Joyasai 23:00
1/1 (Fri., hol.): Gantansai (New Year’s festival) 3:00

• New Year opening hours: 24/7
2-7-1 Atago, Nishi-ku, Fukuoka
• Access: 10 min. on foot from Muromi Subway Sta., or get off at Atago Jinja-mae Nishitetsu bus stop, which drops you off at the bottom of Atago hill.
092-881-0103
http://atagojinjya.com/

Other Shrines Around Fukuoka City

Miyajidake 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), odaiko (Japanese drum), and 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. A huge drum is struck at midnight on Dec. 31. The sound that resonates around the grounds marks the start of the New Year.

New Year Events:
12/31 (Thu.): Oharai-shiki, Chinka-sai (Fire Prevention Festival), Joya-sai 17:00
1/1 (Fri., hol.): Saitansai 0:00 *ritual only – closed to public

• New Year opening hours: 24/7 (shops close at 19:00)
7-1 Miyaji-motomachi, Fukutsu City, Fukuoka
• Access: 5 min. by taxi (25 min. walk) from JR Fukuma Sta.
0940-52-0016
http://www.miyajidake.or.jp

Sakurai Shrine (櫻井神社)

Built in 1632 in Itoshima City, Sakurai Shrine is a designated 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 to 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).

New Year Events:
12/31 (Thu.): Oharai-shiki, Joyasai 22:00~ *ritual only – closed to public
1/1 (Fri., hol.): Himukai Festival and Iwoto Shrine opening until 1/3

• New Year opening hours: 24/7
4227 Shima-sakurai, Itoshima City, Fukuoka
• Access: 40 min. from Tenjin by car
092-327-0317
http://sakuraijinja.com

Kora Taisha Shrine (高良大社)

Founded in the fifth century, Kora Taisha is a Shinto shrine in Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture. Measuring in at 17 m wide, 13 m high and 32 m 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, are designated Important Cultural Properties.

New Year Events:
12/31 (Thu.): Oharae (purification ritual) 15:00 *ritual only – closed to public
1/1 (Fri., hol.): Shinkasai (sacred flame festival) 0:00~, Saitansai 7:00~

• New Year opening hours: 24/7
1 Mii-machi, Kurume City, Fukuoka
• Access: 15 min. from JR Kurume Daigaku-mae Sta.
0942-43-4893
http://www.kourataisya.or.jp

New Year’s Lucky Charms!

Shinto practice over the millennia has formed countless auspicious customs and items. Here are a few:

Omikuji

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.

hatsumode_omikuji

Hamaya

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.

hatsumode_hamaya

Ema

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 .

hatsumode_ema

Omamori

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.

hatsumode_omamori

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 hishaku (ladle) in your right hand and fill it with water. Pour a little over your left hand, then swap hands and 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.

NOTE: The situation regarding the spread of the COVID-19 virus changes daily. Please follow local authorities’ advice by practicing social distancing, wearing masks, and following other recommended guidelines. By sharing information about events and places to go, Fukuoka Now is NOT encouraging unsafe practices. Practice safe behavior for yourself and others.

Originally published in Dec. 2016, updated Dec. 2020.
Copyright Fukuoka Now – including all text, photos and illustrations. Permission required to re-use in any form. Meanwhile, feel free to link 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.

Category
Art & Culture
Guides
Fukuoka Prefecture
Published: Dec 22, 2020 / Last Updated: Dec 22, 2020

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