How to Spend New Year’s Holidays in Japan
The New Year holiday is the most important holiday in Japan with many unique customs and events. In this blog we will share how to celebrate New Year in Japan!


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 In Japan, New Year’s Day is the most important holiday. Many shops and companies close for the first few days of January and people use this time to spend time with their family. Many people go back to their hometown to spend the New Year’s holiday with their family or local friends.


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Kadomatsu and shimekazari are traditional japanese ornaments. They are placed in pairs in front of houses, shops, hotels and others to welcome Toshigami-sama, a deity of harvest and ancestral spirits. Also it’s believed to ward off evil spirits. 


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Japanese people love to eat Soba on New Year’s Eve. It is called Toshikoshi Soba, which means eating soba as you welcome the new year. This custom dates back to the Edo period when people started to eat soba when they usher in the new year. Soba noodles symbolize a long life, and the soft noodles that are easy to chew, help you get rid of bad luck in the previous year so that it won’t haunt you for the next year!  


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Osechi is a special cuisine that you can enjoy only during the New Year’s holiday in Japan. It consists of traditional Japanese dishes like shrimps and datemaki. They are all packed in a jubako, a traditional lacquer box which looks like a lunch box. Japanese people enjoy sharing it with their families or relatives and each dish is generally served in a small portion so that you can enjoy all of the different ones. This is important as each part has a different meaning, some popular Osechi ingredients are:

  • Ebi / Shrimp: wish for longevity 
  • Datemaki/ Rolled sweet omelet: wish to improve knowledge
  • Kazunoko/ Herring roe: pray for the prosperity of descendants
  • Kuromame/ Sweet black beans: encourage work and academic achievement
  • Kuri-kinton/ Sweet mashed potato with chestnuts: money, luck
  • 海老:長寿
  • 伊達巻:学力向上
  • 数の子:子孫繁栄
  • 黒豆:まめに働く
  • 栗きんとん:金運


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Joya no Kane is a traditional event that is carried out at some Buddhist temples around Japan. They ring a giant bell, which is usually hung outside, 108 times in total. This number represents the number of worldly desires of humans. They start to ring the bell before New Year, they ring the bell between 11pm to 1am. Many people enjoy watching the annual event in person and come to the temple at night. You can also enjoy the event on TV which allows you to feel the sacred atmosphere without going out in the freezing cold weather.


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The first day of the new year is best started by viewing the new year’s first sunrise, hatsuhinode and many people stay up to do so. Some observatories open for this tradition, but as these are often very popular, it is difficult to get one of the limited tickets. Other people prefer to go hiking and watch the sunrise from the top of the mountain.


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Hatsumode is one of the most important events during the New Year’s holiday in Japan. It is your first shrine/ temple visit of the new year to make a wish and pray for the good fortune of the year. There is no specific rule or date which stipulates when to visit shrines or temples, but typically it is done between January 1-3. Some people choose New Year’s Day, while others wait a couple of days to avoid the large crowds.


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Otoshidama is something that the Japanese children are most excited about: it is the traditional custom that adults give out some money to their children or relative’s children in a small envelope called pochi bukuro. It is considered as a gift of cash that children receive as a celebration of the new year. It also meant to give children some awareness about money by thinking how to spend the money.


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New Year is a perfect time to go shopping in Japan as many shops hold big sales. You will see many shops selling lucky bags. Lucky bags, fukubukuro in Japanese, are special bags that are packed with various kinds of products and items. It can be found at any kind of shops including clothing, cosmetics, and even grocery stores. You can’t check inside the bags until you finally open it, but it usually includes popular items or some limited editions especially made for Fukubukuro. The bags are often great value for money, sometimes you will receive products with a value twice the amount you spent.



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