Visiting & Exploration,Otsu, Higashi-Omi, Lake EastShiga is the perfect place to spend the New Year in Japan! Check out these temples!

Shiga is the perfect place to spend the New Year in Japan! Check out these temples!

The first big event for the New Year in Japan is the hatsumode first visit to the shrine.

Rather than waiting for the ball to drop at home, how about trying things in the Japanese style?

In which case...

Here are the very best shrines in Shiga to experience this Japanese custom!


①Taga Taisha Shrine

Number of Visitors: Approx. 340,000

First in line, Taga Taisha Shrine, also known by the nickname "Otaga-san"!

taga shrine new year

Paying your respects here is said to bring you long life, avoid disasters, and bring you luck in love!

The gods enshrined here, Izanagi and Izanami, are the divine brother and sister who are said to have created the goddess Amaterasu, the islands of Japan, and the other gods.

A spot also remains here with strong connections to feudal warlord Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who often visited Taga Taisha Shrine.

Taikobashi Bridge!

toyotomi-hideyoshi bridge

The bridge is very steep, making it more of a climb that a walk to cross it!

Once you make it over, the buildings of the shrine can be seen spreading out before you, including the main shrine further inside.

taga shrine

The "Long-Life Stone" is a popular spot to write a wish on a white stone and pray for long life!

longevity stone

One other tradition that can't be overlooked here!

"Otagajakushi"!

otaga scoop

This Japanese mouthful refers to the special rice spoons you can get here as a protective charm!

The wooden plaques used around the shrine are actually also shaped like rice spoons!

② Omi Jingu Shrine

Number of Visitors: Approx. 150,000

Next on our list of introductions is Omi Jingu Shrine, also famous for the "Karuta Festival"!

oumi shrine newyear

The shrine is dedicated to Emperor Tenji, famous for the Taika Reforms. He is now revered for his connections to time, better fortunes, and industry, culture and academic learning.

oumi shrine

A comparatively new shrine, completed in 1940, it features a brilliant crimson lacquer gate and buildings that are prime examples of modern shrine construction.

Shrine pavilions

The grounds include a reproduction of the water clock that was the first ever time keeping device in Japan

japan's first clock

and other rare clocks in the Clock Museum, allowing you to get a look at some rare and priceless pieces!

clock treasure museum

It's also a place known for its connections to the Japanese card game of "Karuta."

Many Karuta based events are held here, including the "Karuta Meijin & Queen Tournament" on January 9!

A special rite relating to Karuta is also held during the "Karuta Festival" on January 10.

karuta festival

The shrine has also attracted attention recently as the setting for the comic "Chihayafuru," which is set in the world of competitive Karuta.

③ Tarobogu Aga-jinja Shrine

Number of Visitors in 2015: Approx. 100,000

Tarobogu Aga-jinja Shrine, located about halfway up the 350m high Mt. Akagamiyama, also comes highly recommended!

taroubou aga shrine

Known by the nickname "Tarobo-san", paying your respects here is said to bring you luck in competitions!

The shrine stands around the middle of the mountain that you can see through the gate.

taroubou aga shrine2

Reaching the shrine means climbing some stone steps.

There are 259 steps from the closest car park and a knee-trembling 742 from the foot of the mountain!

Take it easy and you'll get there in the end!

aga shrine's stone steps

Passing through the gap between the rocks in front of the main shrine is said to make your wishes comes true, unless you are evil of heart... in which case you'll be crushed!

Not a route for the faint of heart!

Meotoiwa

Make it through in one piece and you'll arrive at the main shrine.

Main shrine

The observation deck here gives an incredible view out over distant Hieizan mountains and Lake Biwa.

First sunrise

There's plenty to be said for choosing to watch the first sunrise of the year from here!

④Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine

Number of Visitors: Approx. 100,000

Last but not least, we come to Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine, the head shrine of approximately 3,800 Sanno shrines throughout Japan.

hiyoshi shrine newyear

As one of spiritual gates supposedly used by demons to enter the old city of Kyoto, the god here is devoted to avoiding disasters. Other benefits of paying a visit include luck in love, safety for your household, and success in business.

There's also plenty to see on the earthly plane, including the main shrine which is a designated national treasure.

japan's national tresure hiyosi shrine

Within the grounds you will also see many masaru, "god monkeys", as symbols to ward off evil.

Wooden plaque

Masaru monkeys can be seen everywhere!

For example, on the tower gate of the West Main Shrine.

Look for the wooden carvings supporting the roof in each corner

A symbol of the amulet masaru-san

and the decorations on the front of the second floor!

A symbol of the amulet masaru-san2

After paying your respects, pick up one of these charming sacred lots to check how strong your luck will be in the coming year!

masaru-san paper fortune