First Visit for the New Year - Hatsumode
Many Japanese people visit shrines and temples during the first days of the year. It is a way to start into the new year. The new year starts at midnight, so people line up already in the evening of December 31. At the big popular places like Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa or Meijijingu in Harajuku it can be very crowded. People sometimes wait for hours to make their wishes at the Main Hall.
These things differ from place to place and it can be fun to visit both big places and local temples and shrines. The atmosphere is a little like a festival. Food stalls are set up on the temple grounds and nearby streets. You can find both sweet and savory Japanese street food.
You can also buy "omamori" lucky charms and good luck items with the animal of the year on them at the beginning of the year. Rat (2008), Ox (2009), Tiger (2010), Rabbit (2011), Dragon (2012), Snake (2013), Horse (2014), Goat (2015), Monkey (2016), Rooster (2017), Dog (2018), Pig (2019).