Despite its remote location, thousands make the pilgrimage to Yakuoin, the temple at the top of Mt Takao, for the annual New Year celebrations. Hatsumode, the first worship of the year, is an intricate and reverent part of Japanese New Year celebrations. Temples and shrines all over the country welcome droves of worshipers paying their New Year respects and praying for the year ahead. Many of those temples and shrines have festivals and religious events for the occasion. Some are more famous than others, such as "Geikosai" at Yakuo Temple Mt Takao.
Fire rituals are performed at intervals from midnight to 5 pm on New Year's day by the priests of the temple. The fires are offered for the protection of the thousands of worshipers who make the journey in the dark and cold to receive their first blessing of the year at the revered temple. Accordingly, the Mt Takao cable car runs throughout the night before the New Year, until 6.30 pm on January 1st to accommodate the visitors.
Another important and celebrated part of the Japanese New Year festivities is watching the first sunrise of the year. Yakuoin welcome the first sunrise with Geikosai. Geikosai is what we might call a light welcoming ceremony in English. The priests chant sutras and sound conch shells as the sun rises. Typically that is around 6.48 am on Mt Takao. On one side of the mountain, if the weather is fair, you can see Mt Fuji. This is another reason Mt Takao is a popular destination on New Year's Day - for that all important first glimpse of Mt Fuji in the New Year.
Whether you come by car or public transport the last part of the journey to Yakuoin has to be done on foot. There are no roads or public transport going into Yakuoin. You can get the cable car from the foot of Mt Takao to the summit, but from there it is about a 30 minute walk to the temple.
The nearest highway exit is Takaosan on the Ken-o expressway. There is parking at the foot of Mt Takao by Takaosanguchi station. It is not uncommon to have to wait for extended periods for a place in the official car park.
By Public Transport
Keio Takao Line's Takaosanguchi is about a ten minute walk from the cable car station and hiking trail entry points. The train runs infrequently, but they have extra trains on New Years eve and New Years day.
Find out more about Yakuoin Temple.
Lynda has been in Japan for 20 years and blogging about Saitama on her personal blog insaitama.com for 14 of them. Despite its central location, just North of Tokyo, Saitama is still quite unknown to the international tourist, but frequented by domestic travelers. It is a great place to experien...