Try the first shrine visit of the year here for an authentic Japanese New Year experience.
Home to the soul of the Meiji Emperor and Hokkaido’s protective deities, Hokkaido Jingu (or Hokkaido Shrine) serves as a spiritual meeting grounds encompassed in nature.
Located in the Maruyama neighborhood of Sapporo — known for its expansive park and the Maruyama Zoo — the most popular attraction in the area is the Hokkaido Shrine. Within the 60,000-square-meter Maruyama Park, the shrine is host to several religious festivals and picturesque cherry blossoms in spring. In January, it’s the city’s most popular hatsumode shrine where people go for the traditional first shrine visit of the year.
Both the main and park entrances to the shrine are located within a 10-minute walk from the Maruyama park station. The shrine was built inside the park in 1869 to create a spiritual ground with the surrounding forest and nature. In 1964, the Showa emperor decided that the shrine would also enshrine the soul of the Meiji Emperor. Also enshrined here are three protective deities of Hokkaido that protect both the island and its people.
Festivals and cherry blossoms
A popular choice to visit in the New Year, the shrine might be even more so in spring, when the 1,700 sakura trees dominate the shrine, area as well as the park area. Because the cherry blossoms arrive later than the rest of Japan, this is a hot spot for cherry blossom viewing usually in the beginning of May. Because of that and because of tourists from the Golden Week holiday, it can get pretty crowded.
The next popular event is the Hokkaido Shrine Festival, also known as the Sapporo Festival, which is held in mid-June (June 14-16) each year. On the last day, you can view a big parade that starts at the shrine and heads through Sapporo. This is a fun festival with thousands of participants dressed up in traditional garb from the Heian period. In addition to the parade, check out food stalls and festivities around the shrine area (and other shrines in the city), as a fun way to experience local Japanese Shinto culture.