Geikosai at Yakuoin Mt Takao

Geikosai New Year event at Yakuo Temple on Mt Takao

Dec 31
Jan 1
Venue: Mount Takao When: Dec 31st - Jan 1st 2020 , 11:59pm - 4:30pm

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

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.

Geikosai

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.

Getting there

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.

By Car

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.

More info

Find out more about Mount Takao

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Lynda Hogan

Lynda Hogan @lynda.hogan

I've been in Japan for 18 years and yet everyday is still an adventure. For the last 11 years I have been living in and blogging about Saitama Prefecture (on my personal blog insaitama.com), occasionally appearing on TV to promote the attractions of my adopted home in rural Saitama.  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 experience some off-the-international-tourist-trail locations and meet with locals and national tourists. And of course Saitama is home to venues for both the Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I hope to introduce a taste of what there is to do and see in my articles on Japan Travel and help you with your Saitama travel planning.  

Join the discussion

Sleiman Azizi 3 weeks ago
Celebrated New Years a couple of times at Mt. Takao. The morning sunrise is nice....
Sleiman Azizi 3 weeks ago
My first trip was in my first New Year in Japan. It was great but at the time I couldn't believe that so many senior citizens could walk so easily up the mountain!
Elizabeth S 3 weeks ago
Awesome place to start the year!

I went to the hiwatari event below Mt. Takao in March. It's still very cold, but the ashes (and some cross on the flames!) keep the devoted warm.
Lynda Hogan Author 3 weeks ago
Haha, not sure I'd go to those measures to keep warm, but I suppose if I was devout enough...!
Elena Lisina 3 weeks ago
I've heard there are crowds of people in temples and shrines on January the 1st...
Elena Lisina 3 weeks ago
But, in Japan crowds are fine to my surprise! :D
Sherilyn Siy 3 weeks ago
Mt. Takao has a mystical feeling to it, with it's peak often hidden in the clouds. A pilgrimage there would be a spiritual way to welcome the New Year.
Lynda Hogan Author 3 weeks ago
It really does deserve the "power spot" recognition it gets. I certainly feel an essence when visiting Yakuoin, wonderful place.