Originally celebrated at the same time as Chinese New Year, Japanese New Year has been celebrated according to the Gregorian calendar since 1873. Basically, Japan celebrates new year at the same time as the Western world! Some of the traditions associated with Japanese year follow.
December 31stNew Years eve is the big day in the West, with people often out celebrating until the small hours of the morning. While this is becoming more popular in the bigger cities in Japan, in the smaller cities the traditional Japanese visit to the temple still lives on. At midnight, Buddhist temples all over Japan ring their bells 108 times “to symbolize the 108 human sins in Buddhist belief, and to get rid of the 108 worldly desires regarding sense and feeling in every Japanese citizen.”*
|Visiting your local shrine at New Years is normal.|
FoodNew Years in Japan is celebrated with a special type of food, known as osechi. This food is often prepared according to a family’s traditional recipe but is increasingly being purchased from department stores in advance of the day. Osechi looks spectacular, and often includes fish cakes (kamabuko), herring roe (kazunoko), seaweed (like konbu or nori), chestnuts, sweet potato and black soybeans that have been sweetened (kuromame). Each ingredient in the osechi represents something, for example kazunoko is a hope for lots of children in the New Year!
|Japanese traditional New Year food - Osechi|
Mochi, a gelatinous rice cake, is often made on New Years day and eaten throughout January. The way mochi is made has to be seen to be believed. Hot rice is placed in a special wooden bucket, and hammered repeatedly with a large wooden mallet!
|A beautiful hand written nengajou.|
Despite the advent of email, these cards remain extremely popular. People often buy blank cards, rubber stamps and decorate the nengajou they send out, making it extremely personal and touching.
That’s a little about Japan at New Years! If you’re intrigued about it, why not visit for New Year 2016? Of course, we’d be happy to help you make your way there and to help plan the trip. Contact us for more information.