New Year is the most important holiday in Japan. Unlike in the rest of the world, it’s celebrated more than Christmas. Usually, all of the businesses are shut down and families gather to spend time together. Here you can find out more about Japanese New Year.
In Japanese tradition, years are viewed completely separate. Therefore, each new year provides a fresh start. All duties are supposed to be completed by the end of the year. In order to leave the old year’s troubles and worries behind, people organize bonenkai parties (it translates to “year forgetting parties”).
People serve toshikoshi soba on New Year’s eve. It symbolizes longevity. Also, it’s a simple meal of noodles in hot broth which Japanese eat at home with family or friends. There’s no set recipe for it, and everyone has their own unique version of the dish.
January 1 is a very optimistic day. It usually starts by viewing the new year’s first sunrise. This event is called Hatsuhinode. People gather in places with a good view of the horizont such as mountains and beaches. It’s traditionally believed to be representative for the whole year that has just started. The day is supposed to be full of joy and free of stress and anger. Besides that, everything should be clean and no work should be done.
When it comes to tradition, people usually visit a shrine or temple. Most impressive are such visits at the actual turn of the year. This is a special time because large temple bells are rung at midnight. In the days after New Year people head out to the first shrine visit of the year, also known as hatsumode. At this time it feels like there is a festival. There are many people near the shrines and you can find many stalls selling food.
There are various kinds of special dishes that are served. For example, osechi ryori, otoso (sweetened rice wine) and ozoni (a soup with mochi).
In addition, there are a few games which people traditionally play on New Year. For example, Hanetsuki (Japanese badminton), takoage (kite flying), and karuta (a card game).
A very popular custom is the sending of New Year’s cards, which are specially marked to be delivered on January 1. For example, it is not uncommon for one person to send out several dozens of cards to friends, relatives and co-workers.
In the end, we wish you and your family a safe, healthy, and prosperous New Year! Cheers to health, happiness, and prosperity in 2021!
If you want to learn about Japanese Christmas customs check out our Christmas in Japan article.
Here you can find some interesting videos about New Year in Japan by our favorite YouTubers.
1. What Inside an Average Japanese Family’s Home is like New Year’s Holiday
2. How Japanese celebrate New Year! 日本のお正月 (2015年)