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New Year Celebrations in Japan

New Year Day is the most important day in Japanese Culture.

The Japanese New Year celebration is called Shogatsu, and New Year’s Day is called Gantan.

Nearing the New Year, homes and entrance gates are decorated with ornaments made of pine, bamboo and plum trees.

On the 28th of December the kadomatsu,a decoration made with cut bamboo and pine twigs, was displayed at the entrance of the house to greet the Toshigami (New Year god), who is said to bring good luck. Rice cakes, made by pounding steamed glutinous rice, were originally prepared as offerings to the New Year god as well.

New Year Customs/traditions in Japan

Omisoka – The final day of the year, December 31, is called Omisoka (New Year’s Eve). In keeping with Shinto beliefs, houses are often thoroughly cleaned from top to bottom, including attics, basements and under tatami mats, to welcome the gods. The big clean-up is known as Osouji. The same happens in shops, and merchants often use this as a chance to sell off old stock by offering Fukubukuro, or lucky bags.


It is a tradition in Japan to give children money in an envelope as a gift at New Year.


This is the first sunrise of the year. This beautiful tradition sees people gather at special locations with a good view of the horizon to catch the Hatsuhinode, as they believe a glimpse of the sunrise will help ensure good fortune and happiness in the coming year.


This is the first shrine visit of the year for families and individuals, from 1 January. Hatsumode festivities are held at almost every shrine and temple across Japan during the first few days of the year. You’ll experience a festive atmosphere with food stands, and you will be able to buy a lucky charm for the year ahead. Some of the busiest temples and shrines such as Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine, Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Taisha, Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Taisha and Kamakura’s Tsuruoka Hachimangu attract more than a million visitors each over the first few days of the New Year.

Shishimai – A traditional lion dance performed to bring good luck in the year ahead.

Traditional Food

O-sechi Ryori – The traditional New Year’s Day feast is intended to invite luck, prosperity, and good health for the year ahead. The feast is served in a Jubako box which has several layers, and each element of the overall dish has a meaning, such as prawns for long life, herring roe for fertility. It is also traditional to eat Zouni (rice cake soup). The ingredients vary depending on regions and families. The feast is prepared and planned over several days.

Toshikoshi Soba – Literally ‘year-end’ soba, this is a dish of noodles in hot broth traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve.

Mochi – This chewy rice cake is a classic Japanese New Year’s food, and is also used in decorations known as the Kagami Mochi. It is traditional to make mochi yourself on New Year’s Day.

We wish everyone a Happy New Year ahead!


Japan Guide

Jr Pass

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