At New Year we go to the shrine or temple, we actually did both this year because the little shrine near our house wasn't open for business so we went down to the temple instead. Shrines are the place of worship for Shintoism and usually have a big red torii gate, temples on the other hand are the Buddist place of worship and it has too scary looking guards at the gate. Most people in Japan don't have a strong religious view and will happily visit both shrines and temples and although religion is pushed here as it is in many other places there is a deep rooted respect for living things which is one of the foundations of Buddism and Shintoism.
When entering temple grounds you should wash your hands and rinse out your mouth before going to pray. At the top of the steps of the main building is a big money box and a rope, throw your money in then ring the bell by shaking the rope, this is to wake the gods, clap three times, bow your head and pray.After that we gave in last years hamaya (an arrow for shooting evil) for it to be burned and we bought a new one. The wooden plaque (ema) has a picture of a tiger on it, as this year is the year of the tiger and the orange label is a message for good luck and health for the family for the coming year. We will hang this above the door. Ebi-kun asked why they are burning the old arrows, he said it was such a waste, they should use them again ;o)
Many people also buy a omikuji which has your years fortune written on it, if the fortune isn't a good one then you should tie the paper to something in the temple grounds to leave the bad fortune there.
Some shrines also give out sake on New Years Day and New Years Eve is brought in with the ringing of the bell 108 times, soba noodles are eaten for a long life and children are given otoshidama, money in a special envelope and just before New Year people send out postcards (like we send Christmas cards), reading through the New Years cards whilst drinking sake early New Years Day morning seems to be the thing to do (well in this family anyway!)
What traditions do you have?