Whether we are Buddhists, followers of Shintoism or atheists, the first thing many Japanese do on ganjitsu (New Year's Day) is go to their local shrine or temple for hatsumōde, a symbolic first visit of the year. If it's not done on Jan. 1, it will likely happen shortly after.

The turnout for hatsumōde each year is staggering. According to a 2009 report released by the Metropolitan Police Department, around 3.19 million people visited Meiji Shrine in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. Around 2.98 million visited Naritasan Shinshoji Temple in Chiba Prefecture and 2.96 million visited Kawasaki Daishi Heikenji Temple in Kanagawa Prefecture. Other popular shrines across the country include Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine in Kyoto, Atsuta Shrine in Aichi Prefecture and Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine in Osaka.

There are no set rules for hatsumōde. There are, however, some loose suggestions on how to conduct yourself during your visit.