Japanese New Year

Dec 17, 2023

Japanese New Year Traditions

Japanese New Year, or Oshogatsu, is one of the most important and celebrated holidays in Japan. It is a time for family gatherings, traditional rituals, and reflection on the past year. The festivities last for several days, and each day is filled with unique customs and traditions that have been passed down for generations.

New Year's Eve

On New Year's Eve, families come together to prepare for the upcoming year. They clean their homes, decorate with traditional New Year decorations such as kadomatsu and shimekazari, and enjoy a special meal called osechi-ryori. This meal consists of a variety of dishes that symbolize prosperity, good health, and happiness.

colorful fireworks on the black sky background with free space for text. Celebration and anniversary concept

Counting Down to Midnight

As midnight approaches, many people gather at shrines and temples to ring the temple bell 108 times, a practice known as joya no kane. The ringing of the bell is believed to cleanse the 108 worldly desires and bring about a fresh start for the new year. After the bell ringing, families may also watch the Kohaku Uta Gassen, a popular music show that features performances by famous Japanese artists.

New Year's Day

On New Year's Day, people visit shrines and temples to pray for good fortune and health in the coming year. They participate in the tradition of hatsumode, the first shrine or temple visit of the year. Many also engage in the custom of purchasing omamori, amulets or charms that are believed to provide protection and good luck.

Ancient temple with cherry flowers at spring time in Kyoto, Japan.

Traditional Games and Food

Throughout the New Year holiday, families engage in various traditional games and activities. One popular game is called hanetsuki, similar to badminton but played with a wooden paddle and shuttlecock. Additionally, many people enjoy eating ozoni, a special soup with mochi (rice cakes) that varies by region.

First Sunrise of the Year

It is customary to wake up early on New Year's Day to witness the first sunrise of the year, known as hatsuhinode. Many people travel to scenic spots or beaches to observe this beautiful natural phenomenon and pray for good luck in the coming year.

hatsuhinode sunrise

Reflecting and Setting Intentions

During the New Year holiday, Japanese people take time to reflect on the past year and set intentions for the future. They may write down their aspirations and hopes for the coming year, a practice known as nengajo. This act of reflection and goal-setting is an important part of the New Year tradition.

Japanese New Year is a time of joy, reflection, and renewal. The customs and traditions associated with Oshogatsu are deeply rooted in Japanese culture and hold great significance for the people of Japan. It is a time for coming together with loved ones and welcoming the possibilities of the year ahead.

New Year's decorative Japanese jewelry