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I am looking for traditional events taking place in Tokyo during either Christmas or New Year's day. Could you make some suggestion of cultural events you can only enjoy at these particular moments?

In particular, AFAIK it is a custom to visit temples on January 1st. How interesting is it for foreigners? Is it well perceived to take part in this or will foreigners (non-believers) visiting temples at this occasion be considered as "out of place"? If not, is there a particular temple one would recommend?

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Welcome to Travel.SE! As it stands, this question is VERY broad and will have to be closed. There are hundreds of possible things to do. Could you perhaps edit and add in what you're interested in - museums, historical, cultural events. Then flag it for reopening. It may help if you glance at the faq for some suggestions on rewording too. –  Mark Mayo Sep 10 '12 at 18:43
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Thanks for the re-edit, looks quite interesting now and more fitting with the Q/A format of the site. Thanks for the fast response! –  Mark Mayo Sep 10 '12 at 18:57
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1 Answer 1

Hatsumōde (the year's first visit of a Shinto shrine, less commonly a Buddhist temple) happens not necessarily on the 1st - some people do it on the 2nd or 3rd (or already on new year's eve). Expect popular shrines such as the Meiji Shrine to be extremely crowded so that it can take an hour or more to get to the front - but many people will wear traditional clothes and it can be quite an interesting spectacle. And nobody will take offense at foreigners attending if you behave politely.

In many large Buddhist temples, there is a ceremony at midnight on new year's even where a bell is rung 108 times, intended to purge the earthly temptations that prevent people from achieving nirvana.

Yasukuni shrine holds a festival on January 1st that includes various performances of music, dance and martial arts.

Another event is the Emperor's new year's speech on January 2nd, one of only two dates where some of the inner parts of the imperial palace are open to the public, and of course seeing the emperor and his family in person is also quite exceptional.

In contrast, Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, and there are no traditional events - unless you count recent commercial traditions. Department stores will have lavish decoration, and there are commonly family dinners or romantic dates.

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