A fun thing I like to do at New Year’s is to go on a walking tour of seven shrines and temples in Tokyo. The hike is called the shichifukujin meguri (pilgrimage to Seven Lucky Gods), and there are a number of such pilgrimage options available across the nation. Each of the participating premises is assigned one of seven gods with different characters and attributes, such as Ebisu (a god of fishermen and merchants) and Bishamon (a god of warriors), all derived from Japanese mythology and folklore.
While most people visit just one shrine or temple during the New Year, this way you can cover seven at once, each with the prospects of bringing you different kinds of good luck, from monetary fortune to good health. The one I frequent is the Ebara shichifukujin in Shinagawa Ward (www.sinakan.jp), comprising four temples and three shrines. I typically start at Oi Gongen Shrine (by JR Oimachi Station) and buy a shikishi (a square piece of paper) there for ¥1,500, which has names of the seven shrines and temples you need to visit on it.
The entire route is about 6 km, or a 20-minute stroll from one stop to the next, during which you collect stamps from the shrines and temples on the paper. Some of the establishments also give you a small cup of amazake (sweet sake) or a tiny bag of sacred rice. When you cover them all, you show the card with seven stamps to officials of whichever shrine/temple you are at, and they will give you an ema (a wooden plaque). You can write your New Year’s wish on it and leave it at the shrines or temples. (Tomoko Otake)