Hatsumode: New Year First Shrine Visiting – January 1st January 3rd
Most people in Japan visit a shrine from January 1st to 3rd (or 5th for busy/lazy people).
Basically people choose to visit a nearby shrine or a famous one near their location.
Because there are plenty of shrines here in Kyoto, and many of them are prestigious and well-known, a large number of people come to Kyoto and stay for the End/Beginning of the year. This makes Kyoto City even crowded than usual. For those who want to avoid the huge crowd of people, visiting Yasaka Shine, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Heian Jingu, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine and Shimogamo Shrine is not a good idea on these days as explained in this article. Instead, visit other less known shrines such as Seimei Shrine or Yoshida Shrine. Although these shrines are not as popular as those mentioned above, they are worth visiting. Seimei Shrine is regarded as one of the most unique shrines, being a sacred place thanks to the person enshrined, a legendary “Onmyoji” (ying-yang fortune teller) Seimei Abe. Yoshida Shrine is located in a mountain called Yoshida Mountain, which makes for quiet and scenic atmosphere. For more information on these shrines, such as how to get there, check our Kyoto e-Guidebook.
Kemari Hajime: Kick Off of New Year – January 4th
Kemari is the name of a traditional ball lifting game played by court nobles. This tradition has been passed down from generation to generation thanks to the Kemari Preservation Committee, which was set up in 1903 due to an order by Meiji Emperor. This ceremony is held at Shimogamo Shrine. Pray that New Year will bring happiness after seeing Kemari. 13:30 – 14:30.
Busha Shinji: Warrior Archery Ceremony – January 16th
This is a religious ceremony, where experienced archers from Ogasawara Style Archery & Horse Riding fire arrows as a gift to Gods at Kamigamo Shrine. Ogasawara is a traditional style of archery and horse riding which has been passed down for about 850 years. 11:00 –
Hatsu Tenjin – January 25th
Kitano Temangu Shrine has a festival on every 25th, and this is the first one of the year. There will be hundreds of small shops and food stands on this day. It is a perfect opportunity to eat many kinds of Japanese festival foods, shop for something unique and make a wish. 9:00 – 17:00.