Hatsumoude is the first shrine visit of the New Year in Japan. Some people visit a Buddhist temple instead. Many visit on the first, second, or third day of the year as most are off work on those days. Generally, wishes for the new year are made, new o-mamori (charms or amulets) are bought, and the old ones are returned to the shrine so they can be burned. There are often long lines at major shrines throughout Japan.
Most Japanese are off work from December 29 until January 3. It is during this time that the house is cleaned, debts are paid, friends and family are visited and gifts are exchanged. It would be customary to spend the early morning of New Year's Day in domestic worship, followed by sake — often containing edible gold flakes - and special celebration food. During the hatsumoude, it is common for men to wear a full kimono — one of the rare chances to see them doing so across a year. The act of worship is generally quite brief and individual and may involve queuing at popular shrines. The o-mamori vary substantially in price.
Some shrines and temples have millions of visitors over the three days. Meiji Shrine in Harajuku for example has nearly 3.5 million visitors in every year.
A common custom during hatsumoude is to buy a written oracle called omikuji. If your omikuji predicts bad luck you can tie it onto a tree on the shrine grounds, in the hope that its prediction will not come true. The omikuji goes into detail, and tells you how you will do in various areas in your life, such and business and love, for that year. Often a good-luck charm comes with the omikuji when you buy it, that will call good luck and money your way.
Asakusa Shrine, also known as Sanja-sama ("Shrine of the Three Gods"), is one of the most famous Shinto shrines in Tokyo, Japan. Located in Asakusa, the shrine honors the three men who founded the Sensou-ji. Asakusa Shrine is part of a larger grouping of sacred buildings in the area. It can be found on the east side of the Sensou-ji down a street marked by a large stone torii.
An example of the gongen-zukuri style of architecture, Asakusa Shrine was commissioned by Tokugawa Iemitsu and constructed in 1649 during Japan's Edo Period. It was constructed in order to honor the three men who established and constructed the Sensou-ji. The legend states that two brothers, fishermen named Hinokuma Hamanari and Hinokuma Takenari, found a bosatsu Kannon statuette caught in a fishing-net in the Sumida River on May 17, 628.
The third man, a wealthy landlord named Hajino Nakatomo, heard about the discovery and approached the brothers to whom he delivered an impassioned sermon about the Buddha. The brothers were very impressed and subsequently converted to the Buddhist religion. The Kannon statue was consecrated in a small temple by the landlord and the brothers who thereafter devoted their lives to preaching the way of Buddhism. This temple is now known as the Sensou-ji. Asakusa Shrine was built in order to worship these men as deities. The shrine and its surrounding area and buildings have also been the site of many Shinto and Buddhist festivals for centuries. The most important and famous of these festivals is Sanja Matsuri, held in late May.
Unlike many other structures in the area, including the Sensou-ji, the shrine (along with the Nitenmon) survived the Tokyo air raids of 1945. Because of this rich history, it was designated an Important Cultural Property by the Japanese government in 1951.