The January 22nd issue of Jinja Shinpō had an article about hatsumōdë, as normal for this time of year. The Noto Earthquake, of course, cast a pall over things this year, but hatsumōdë went ahead in the rest of the country and, as usual, it was strongly influenced by the weather. For the article, Jinja Shinpō contacted five major jinja around the country.
The first was, of course, Jingū. This was the only jinja to give a number: they had 377,011 visitors over the first three days of the year, 1,632 more than last year — so essentially the same numbers. The first and second saw good weather in Isë, and more visitors than last year, but it rained on the third, so numbers were down. In 2023, a total of 7,173,329 people visited Jingū, an increase of over a million on 2022. That shows that travel is recovering after the pandemic, and the jinja remarked that the hatsumōdë situation was also more or less back to its pre-pandemic state.
Meiji Jingū in Tokyo had similar things to say. They reported a slight fall in general numbers, which they attributed to sporadic rain and the railways not running night trains, but a slight increase in people having formal prayers. They also saw people behaving as they did before the pandemic, but Meiji Jingū is retaining some of its pandemic counter-measures, such as having a number of locations where you can receive ofuda, because they reduced the crowding and the pressure on staff, and that is a good thing. A “slight fall” means that they saw more than 2,500,000 people over three days…
From Tōhoku, they talked to Shiwahiko Jinja Shiogama Jinja. (This is one jinja, kind of, but its official name is two jinja names run together because there are two jinja next to each other on the site. Both are old, and one was moved there around the Meiji Revolution because its previous site was inaccessible and being eroded by the sea, as I recall. There is only one chief priest, however. As so often in Shinto, it’s complicated.) They had good weather, and lots of people, again getting back to the pre-pandemic situation, with an increase in formal prayers. They did retain one of their pandemic measures, however: an earlier closing time. This had reduced the pressure on staff, and after they looked into the closing times of other major jinja, they decided that they could keep it at the earlier time.
In Kyoto, they talked to Yasaka Jinja. They had rain over the first three days of the year, and probably partly as a result the numbers of both normal visitors and formal prayers were down on the pre-pandemic average. On the other hand, both were better than last year. This jinja, and some of the others, were still seeing significant numbers of people coming to do hatsumōdë at the end of the previous year — so-called “saisakimōdë”. They hadn’t encouraged it, but some other jinja still did, and people seemed to have picked it up.
Finally, in Saga Prefecture, Kyushu, they talked to Yutoku Inari Jinja. They, like Jingū, had good weather on the first and second, followed by poor weather on the third, but even so they reported that both normal visitors and formal prayers were higher than before the pandemic. They also said that the visits seemed to be returning to a concentration on the first three days of the year, after spreading out during the pandemic. Again, things were basically back to normal.
The overall picture, then, is that hatsumōdë is as popular as ever, and the situation is returning to how it was before the pandemic — at least at larger jinja.