You can join the nightclub crowd to celebrate the end of the year, but the traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations in Japan are mostly held in shrines and temples. Sensoji in Asakusa (; pictured above) and Hiejinja in Akasaka ( are popular destinations, but one of the most famous temples for the annual rite is Zojoji, the center of the Pure Land Sect of Buddhism that was built in 1605. At the temple in Shiba, visitors write down their wishes on a piece of paper and are handed balloons that they release at midnight as prayers for happiness and luck for the upcoming year. The other highlight of the evening is the ringing of Zojoji’s bells. The visit to the temple is free, the octopus balls and yakisoba you pay for.

Dec. 31 from 8:30 pm    Venue: Zojoji Temple
Nearest station: Shibakoen (Mita Line)