10 Japanese New Year’s Traditions

If you are someone who is curious over various cultures and traditions of the world then here we shall be introducing you one such popular traditions followed by the people of Japan. Yes! Here we will be talking about some interesting and meaningful Japanese New Year’s Traditions that people over there stick to on the auspicious occasion. Every country abides by certain traditions and cultures on the New Year and Japan is one among them. The traditions followed by Japanese are in great number and their meaning is more than what just meets the eye. If you are to visit Japan for the New Year or just interested in knowing the traditions that people over there follow we have covered them all here for you. Have a good read!

Japanese New Year’s Traditions 

Japanese believe in the maxim that reads “death by overworking”.  It is around the time of New Year and on that particular day that Japanese chill and relax. They make time for their families and plan get together with their giant families. Almost entire nation takes break from the work routine by shutting offices and businesses on the New Year’s Day. If you wish to know How Is New Year’s Celebrated In Japan, we must say their traditions speak volumes about their celebrations. 

Many cultural ceremonies take place and people gather to greet each other and celebrate the occasion grandly. Japanese follow many luck-generating traditions on the New Year’s Day that is both luck-bringing and fun. We have compiled some of the top New Year traditions in Japan here in this page for our readers who wish to know them. Here we have covered both ancient and modern traditions followed by Japanese on the New Year. You can check out all the traditions in detail and follow them by yourself if you want to on the coming New Year. You can also suggest these traditions to your friends who are living there in Japan. 

1. Osechi 

Osechi is a traditional way of boxing multiple foods. All the foods included are traditional Japanese foods that are packed in lacquerware boxes. While many people make all the dishes at home, many others drain their wallets to get the expensive box of delicacies on the New Year’s Day. Eating Osechi on the New Year’s Day has been a long-followed tradition in Japan. The items included in Osechi are mochi rice soup, red and white vegetables, side dishes like seaweed and black soyabeans. If our guess is right, you must be already gulping.

2. Eating Long Soba Noodles 

Japanese though seem lean and thin, they do eat a lot. They love food, after all every human being loves it. On the occasion of New Year, Japanese eat long soba noodles as a part of long-running tradition. They call the tradition as toshikoshi which translates to ‘passing into the New Year’. The belief behind eating long noodles is that they represent long life and by eating soba noodles which are indeed long makes one live a longer life. Though there is no science backing to this tradition, looking at the Japanese longest living graphs we have to believe that there is some kind of mysterious truth surrounding this tradition.

3. Pray at a Shrine 

As New Year marks the start of a new beginning, we commonly offer prayers to the God either by going to the temples, churches or shrines or just by staying home. Similarly, Japanese too offer their prayers by visiting the shrines. They pray for good luck and prosperity all the year-long for their family. They call the tradition as hatsumode. There are some popular shrines that get crowded on the New Year’s Day like Tokyo’s Meiji Jingu and Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari. 

4. Nenga 

Nenga is one of the Japanese New Year Traditions that is popularly followed by the people. Nenga is nothing but New Year’s greetings. The greeting cards are sent to friends and family members on the New Year’s Day as a part of the tradition. The greeting cards are called as Nenga and are delivered to the people by the post offices. Though technology has been updated and mobile phones are being used to exchange wishes highly, people still use Nenga to greet each other on the New Year’s Day.

5. Joya No Kane 

There is this tradition in Japan where the temple bells called as bonsho are rung at the stroke of the midnight about 108 times all over the country. This tradition is referred as Joya No Kane and the number 108 according to Buddhist faith represents human desires that lead to pain and suffering. The bell ringing ritual is followed every eve to let all the negative emotions go away from the past year and to step into the New Year with positive vibes.

6. Mochi

Mochi is a traditional rice cake prepared and consumed on the New Year’ Day. It is one of the important foods to be prepared on the New Year. Generally rice cakes are prepared often in the houses of Japanese, but on New Year’s Day they make sure not to miss out on this dish. The tradition is that they needs to be prepared at home, however as it takes lot of time and effort to prepare them, they are bought outside on the New Year.

7. Hatsuhinode 

Hatsuhinode is nothing but the first sunrise of the New Year. It is believed by the Japanese that it brings good fortune and prosperity to them if they catch the first sight of the sunrise on the New Year. So, they gather up in groups and get into the mountaintops, beaches and at places where they can catch the first sunrise clearly. As soon as they catch the first sunrise, they offer their prayers and ask for good fortune in the coming year.

8. Omikuji 

On the New Year you can also know your fortune by visiting kiosks. There you can pick up some omikuji which are small pieces of paper that contain your fate in them. You pick up omikuji randomly and it will tell you the yearly forecast about everything in general. If you pick up a great curse slip you no need to fear as you can get good luck charms right there which will somewhat subside your bad luck. If you don’t want the bad luck to follow you, you can always tie the fortune slip on the stand in the shrine.

9. Dreams Interpretation 

Japanese believe that their first dream of the New Year is a way to predict their luck in the New Year. They named the first dream as hatsuyume and in order to rightly interpret the dream you have to carefully observe the main symbols of the dream. Eggplant, hawk, Fuji etc symbolize good luck. If you wish to get good luck in the New Year, make sure you dream of the aforementioned symbols. We wish you so!

10. Lucky Bags 

As the name suggests, this is also a tradition that is related to luck. If you want to be bestowed with luck then lucky bags are an easy way to do it. You can pick up the lucky bags anywhere from the stores and Japanese stores are wide open with wide variety of lucky bags packed with different types of goodies. They are also referred as happy bags with kanji written on them. You can get surprising goodies in them and if you are lucky enough you would grab your favorite at a low price.

These are the top and best Japanese New Year’s Traditions that Japanese stick to on the New Year. If you like them and want to follow them then do try them this New Year. If you find the information provided here helpful, do bookmark our website – NEWYEARWIKI.COM and stay connected to our page for more interesting articles on New Year traditions.

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