New Year is one of the most important holidays in Japan. It is a day the people spend together and most businesses shut down from January 1 to January 3. Years are traditionally viewed as completely separate with every New Year providing a fresh start. During the New Year homes and gates are designed and decorated with ornaments made of plum trees, bamboo, and pine, and houses are cleaned. New Year is one of the most celebrated holidays for people who speak Japanese. On New Year’s eve, toshikoshi soba (buckwheat noodles) symbolizing long life are served and families watch different spectacular performances together.
January 1 is a very interesting day, best started by viewing the first sunrise of the year. And it is traditionally believed to be representative of the whole year that has commenced. For that reason, the day is supposed to be full of joy and free of stress and anger; though everything should be clean no work should be done.
It is tradition to visit the temple or shrine during the New Year (shogastsu). The most popular temples and shrines such as the Tokyo Meiji shrine attract a lot of people during the three days holiday. Various kinds of dishes are served during the Japanese New Year. Such as otoso (sweetened rice wine), osechi ryori, and ozone (soup with mocha)
Japanese New Year Tradition
The New Year is the best time to celebrate the previous year coming to an end and the beginning of another new year. Just like every other country around the world, Japan also has customs and traditions associated with the New Year. Below are some of the traditions, check them out.
- Cleaning – In the Japanese tradition, the New Year must start with a clean environment. The Japanese people always partake in something called big cleaning. Most times, all parts of the household are cleaned, including places that are untouched other times of the year.
- Traditional New Year food – In the Japanese culture, there are certain food that must be eaten. Toshikoshi is a food eaten on the eve of new year’s while ozoni and osechi are eaten on New Year days.
- Hatsushinode – This is another New Year tradition and it is to observe the first sunrise of the year. Lots of people like to partake in this tradition because they believe there is something magical about it.
- Hatsumode – This is one of the most traditional New Year customs of Japan. It is the first shrine visit of the New Year. Lots of people go to visit the shrine within the 3 days holiday in order to pay respect and wish for a happy and healthy year
- Fukubukuro – It is a tradition for many people to go out and buy Fukubukuro on New Year. It is a surprise bag people buy form traders at a different price point without knowing what is inside. Above all, it is a very popular tradition.
- Otoshidama – On New Year, there is tradition of giving a bit of money in an envelope to the children. It isn’t usually much but many kids look forward to what the adults in the household will give to them.
How to Celebrate Japanese New Year
Do you want to celebrate the New Year the way the Japanese do? Not to worry because the below is just for that reason. Note that you do not need to do all. Not everyone sticks to all the traditions.
- Invite good luck with decorations like shimekazeri, kadomatsu, hogita and so many others
- On New Year eve Kouhaku Uta Gassen show.
- Eat toshikoshi soba, osechi ryori. Ozoni.
- See Hatsushinode 9 the first sunrise)
- Send nengajo (post cards)
- Visit the temple or shrine on the first day of the year.
- Partake in the Fukubukuro
There are still so many more you can do on the Japanese New Year. However, you can just do the above because they are some of the traditions of the Japanese. Wishing you the very best in this Japanese new year.