The New Year’s holiday is the most important holiday period in Japan. Celebration of the New Years Day (お正月) in Japan starts at midnight on December 31st, with Buddhist temples all across the country ringing their bells 108 times to cleanse humanity of the 108 sins recognized by Buddhism, in a tradition is known as Joya no Kane (除夜の鐘).
Another tradition is to pay attention to the “firsts” of the year and many people practice this by visiting shrines around Japan in a ceremony known as the Hatsumode (初詣).
One of the most popular locations to celebrate news years in Tokyo is at the Meiji Jingu Shrine, located near Shibuya.
Be warned that this is an extremely busy shrine with over 3 million visitors during the New Years celebrations. Be prepared to stand in line for over an hour before you reach the main gates.
Once you have reached the main shrine you can throw coins as a donation to the gods in a practise that is known as saisen (賽銭). Bow twice, clap twice, then pray to the gods for a prosperous new year ahead.
Once you are finished, bow once again as you leave the building. Many people will also write their wishes on a wooden plaque known as an ema (絵馬), then leave them at the shrine in the hope that their wishes will come true.