What do Japanese people do on New Year’s Day?

  • 01/04/2022
  • 01/04/2022
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Happy New Year, everyone!

How is everyone doing in 2022?

By the way, what do you think Japanese people do on New Year’s Day?
Here are some common ways Japanese people spend their New Year’s.

December: Preparation

In December, we clean the house in advance to welcome the gods of the New Year.
After the cleaning is done, we decorate the house for the New Year.
Decorations are put up on either the 28th or 30th, the 29th meaning “double suffering” in Japanese, and the 31st, the day before New Year’s, as it is disrespectful to the gods.

The main decorations are

Kadomatsu: Decorated at the entrance to serve as a landmark for the gods. Pine trees, bamboos, and other plants that bring good luck in Japan are used.

Shimekazari: Decorate the front door and the altar. It shows that the house is sacred and also serves to ward off evil.

Kagamimochi (mirror rice cake): This is the place where the welcomed god resides. The largest one is displayed in the tokonoma ( Japanese-style alcove ) or living room, which is the most prestigious room in the house.

~Eating New Year soba noodles~
December 31st is called “Omisoka(New Year’s Eve)”.
On New Year’s Eve, it is customary to eat New Year’s Eve soba noodles.

~Listening to the New Year’s Bell~
From past 11pm on the 31st to after midnight on the 1st, big bells are rung at temples around the region. The number of times the bells are rung is said to be 108, which comes from the Buddhist belief that the bells are used to purge the 108 vexations of human beings, and is also broadcast on TV, so you don’t have to worry if you don’t have a temple near your house.

January: Start of New Year’s Day to the end of New Year’s Day

1/1 – New Year’s Day
The Japanese New Year is celebrated on January 1st, and many companies and stores are closed from the 1st to the 3rd for the “Sanganichi(Three Days)” period. The New Year’s Day period, or “Matsunouchi”, varies from region to region: in Tokyo and its surrounding areas, it lasts until January 7, and in Osaka and its surrounding areas, it lasts until January 15. The New Year’s decorations are taken down on the last day of the New Year.

New Year’s morning
New Year’s Day begins with the greeting, “Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu.” On New Year’s Day, we eat Osechi and Zoni slowly from morning to noon. On New Year’s Day, many people go back to their parents’ house where they usually live far away, gather with relatives, or spend time with their families.

First visit to a shrine
At the beginning of the year, people go to shrines to pray for the safety and happiness of the year ahead; some people leave on the night of the 31st and pray right after the date changes to midnight, while others take it easy after the afternoon of the 1st. At this time of year, all shrines are packed with people, and popular shrines in Asakusa and Kyoto have long lines. It is said that a 5 yen coin (which means “good luck” in Japanese) is a good fortune when visiting the shrine.

▼What kind of place is Asakusa?

▼How to visit the shrine (Kanda Myojin)

Kagamimochi (mirror rice cakes) are used to welcome the gods, and are not to be eaten while the gods are present. Eating the rice cake after the gods have left is called “Kagami-biraki”. Although it varies from region to region, Kagamibiraki is generally held on January 11th. Since it is believed that the gods do not like knives, they use a wooden hammer instead of a knife to split the rice cake and eat it as ozoni or oshiruko (rice cake in red bean soup). This makes me feel that the New Year is finally over.