Last week’s Jinja Shinpō contained the first official report on this year’s hatsumōdë, with a suggestion that there would be further articles once the reporters had heard from some smaller jinja around Japan, and had time to build up something of an overview of the country. This year is likely to have been bad, however, and not just because of the pandemic. Some regions had unusually heavy snow, which made it physically difficult to get to some jinja.
The overall picture was that jinja saw massive reductions in visitor numbers as compared to last year. Jingū in Isë was down from about 560,000 to about 170,000, while Meiji Jingū in Tokyo was down by 80%. Shiwahiko Jinja Shiogama Jinja (that’s one jinja, at least as a legal entity — it has a complex history and a complex name) in Miyagi Prefecture was affected by the snow, and saw a very large reduction in visitors. Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto reported a large drop in numbers, enough to make the jinja feel completely different from a normal new year, and commented that they had had more visitors on the second and third than on the first. Munakata Taisha in Fukuoka reported about half its normal number of visitors over the first three days of the year.
These jinja did consistently report that, although the number of people asking for ceremonies to be performed had dropped substantially (Shiwahiko Jinja Shiogama Jinja reported that it had halved), it had not dropped as much as the visitor numbers. That makes sense: the people who ask for a full formal ceremony, which requires a donation of at least ¥5,000 at most jinja, are, on average, more dedicated than the people who just put ¥5 in the offering box, and so you would expect a higher proportion of them to find a time to get there. Several of the jinja also mentioned that there were signs that people had taken the advice to spread hatsumōdë out to heart, so that they would not know how many visitors they had really had until the end of January.
The article also reports initial comments from a range of smaller jinja, which seem to be all over the place. One jinja reported about 10% of normal visitors, while another reported a clear increase in people visiting at the end of the year, and an overall sense that there had been more people than normal over the whole period. Smaller jinja were also seeing signs of people spreading their jinja visits out.
There is also some hard data, from smartphone location data, collected through a government program. According to this, Meiji Jingū, Atsuta Jingū (in Nagoya), and Fushimi Inari Taisha were down to 36% of last year (that is, a little more than a third of last year), Tsurugaoka Hachimangū in Kamakura was down to 46%, and Sumiyoshi Taisha (in Osaka) and Dazaifu Tenmangū (in Kyushu) were down to 25%.
This, obviously, does not look good, although the smaller reductions in the number of ceremonies requested combine with the signs that people are spreading out their visits to suggest that it might not be financially catastrophic. We still need to wait and see.