Hiroshima Prepares For New Year Under Pandemic Shadow

After gaining a degree of control over the spread of COVID-19 in the autumn, December 2020 has seen a resurgence in the number of novel coronavirus cases in Hiroshima. As a result, authorities are asking people to keep their heads down and even refrain from making trips back to their family homes and it is certain that 2021 New Year celebrations in Hiroshima will be a far quieter affair than usual.

New Years’s Eve

New Year’s Eve isn’t the big party night that it is in the west, but you can find usually parties going on in bars, pubs and clubs. This year, however, with places required to close by 8pm and stop serving alcohol by 7pm, the streets of the Nagarekawa nightlife district will be pretty bare. It’s more likely that most people will be snuggled up at home watching TV and eating toshi-koshi soba noodles.

The annual Chinkasai fire prevention festival on Miyajima will be taking place from 6pm on New Year’s Eve, but under quite strict COVID-19 restrictions.

Miyajima

Despite the pandemic and the fact that the great shrine gate is still under wraps for restoration work Itsukushima Shrine will be open to people to make New Year shrine visits (the shrine closes at 17:30 on New Year’s Eve and reopens at midnight New Years’s Day) though we hear that the number of people allowed in the shrine at one time will be limited. According to the shrine website, the usual New Year rituals at Itsukushima Shrine will be taking place as usual.

If you want to make a late night visit to Miyajima, however, you will have to make your own way to the ferry terminal as JR has canceled its usual New Year late night train services to Miyajima-guchi.

Last train to Miyajima-guchi from Hiroshima: 23:48
Last train to Miyajima-guchi from Iwakuni: 23:09

Ferries will be running through the night between Miyajima-guchi and Miyajima (around every 15 minutes).

Daishoin Temple will be open to visitors as normal, but, aware that many people will prefer to stay away this year, they will also be live streaming from midnight.

First Sunrise

As people are being asked to keep things quiet over the holiday, it’s possible that more people than usual are planning to get up early and welcome the New Year by viewing the first sunrise of 2021.
Mt Misen on Miyajima is a very popular place to watch the sunrise and it can get very crowded on the summit and it’s hard to imagine distancing will be possible if anything like the usual numbers make the climb.

The Miyajima Ropeway will start running from 5am on New Year’s Day, but at half capacity and waits of up to 2 hours are expected, especially on the way down.

Other popular sunrise-viewing spots are Futaba-yama and Ogonzan in Hiroshima City, Hai-ga-mine in Kure and Senkoji temple in Onomichi.

Time of New Year sunrise 2021: 07:17

Hatsu-mode Shrine Visits

Gokoku-jinja Shrine in Hiroshima at New Year

People will, generally, be able to make their traditional first shrine visit of the New Year as normal, but shrines are requesting that people spread their visits out. Gokoku Shrine in Hiroshima is always extremely crowded and they are instituting a one-way in and out of the shrine grounds as well as extending their hatsumode period until mid-Febraury.

However you choose to spend the New Year holiday, we at GetHiroshima wish you a safe and happy start to 2021.

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