- The 'first visit' (also hatsu-mairi) to a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple at New Year, typically January 1-3. It derives from the medieval onmyo-do (yin-yang) custom of eho mairi; visiting a shrine located in an auspicious direction. Hatsumode has grown in popularity in the postwar period and is currently undertaken by up to 80% of Japanese people. The trend is to visit the largest and most famous Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples. Some people travel through the night in order to be at the shrine as new year begins or perhaps to view the sunrise from a mountain-top shrine. As well as enjoying the trip with friends and family, trying out seasonal foods and buying souvenirs, visitors may participate in norito rituals and receive sakaki branches and consecrated sake (mi-ki). They also return old amulets (o-fuda, o-mamori, hamaya) for ritual burning and buy new ones for the coming year, purchase o-mikuji divination slips and inscribe ema.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.