The New Year in Japan.
The Japanese New Year celebration!
How we prepare and celebrate our New Year!!
December 31, called Omisoka in Japanese, is the last day of the year. In the olden days, the last day of each month was called misoka. The very last month had the additional character 大 is grand or great. It is the busiest day of the year as everyone completes preparations for the coming New Year.
Japanese people customarily eat buckwheat noodles on New Year’s Eve. This food is long in shape and is a symbol of long life and happiness. Another reason for this custom is that many years ago goldsmiths and silversmiths used buckwheat dumplings to gather up fine particles of gold and silver dust, and so people began to say that “buckwheat collects money.”
Jyoya-no-Kane New Year’s Eve’s Bells
Starting on New Year’s Eve and continuing into New Year’s Day, Temple bells are rung a total of 108 times. According to Buddhist beliefs, human beings are troubles by 108 earthly and temptations.
The first month of the year is called Ichi-gatsu in Japanese and the way i is written (一月）shows its literal meaning. It also has the special name of Shogatsu (正月）indicationg that this is a time to renew or start over.
Shogatsu has been a very special and important holiday in Japan. It is a time for family members to get together and enjoy a variety of traditional foods. Everyone welcomes the god of the New Year and pray for happiness and prosperity during the coming year.
By the end of December, people have cleaned up every corner of their houses and completed their New Year’s decorations. Family members then get together to enjoy the season with its many traditional New Year’s dishes in Japan.
New Year’s Decorations
After the big year-end cleanup, people welcome the god of the New Year by displaying Kado-matsu at the gate and preparing another exterior as well as interior decorations. They put up Shime-kazari and make offerings of Kagami-mochi for the New year in Japan.
Image source: iwaya-hp.com
Osechi-ryori Japanese traditional New Year’s foods.
In Samurai times the food was very spartan but nowadays it is quite elaborate and varies from region to region and family to family. Osechi- ryori is served in multi-tiered lacquered boxes called Jyu-bako.
Zoni Soup with boiled rice cakes with vegetables.
Long ago people used to cook rice cakes and vegetables and offer them to the gods. We believed we could become powerful by eating the same food as the gods. Zoni caries greatly from region to region.
Hatsu-mode New Year’s visits to Shrines and Temples
The Japanese word Hatsu-mode refers to the first visit to a Shinto shrine or Buddist temple during the New Year’s holiday. People used to go to the local shrine or temple with which their family had always been associated but today it has become more common to visit well-known places.
In the olden days, people stayed awake on New Year’s Eve to welcome the god of the New Year and it is still Popular to go out for Hatsu-mode at midnight.
Shishi-Mai Lion Dance
This very powerful dance features a dancer with lion’s head representing an imaginary beast which wards off evil, often scares small children to cry.
Children traditionally receive gifts of cash in a special small envelope decorated with festive New Year’s patterns. This custom has its origin in the ritual offering of rice cakes to the god of the New Year. Small portions of the offerings were traditionally given to children. The literal meaning of Toshidama(年玉）is “spirit of the year god”.
Nenga-jyo New Year’s greeting Post Cards
Japanese people used to pay calls during the New Year’s Holiday but nowadays they are more likely to send greeting cards to friends and relatives.
As you can see, Shogatsu is very special for Japanese people and we have a unique way of celebrating. We have many old customs and traditions for the New Year that you may find interesting. Moreover, it is the BEST time of the year for the great Japanese food!
Please let me know if you have any questions about The New Year in Japan 🙂
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References: Anual Events in Japan by Noriko Takano