20 December, 2010

New Year's Celebration in Japan

For this week’s blog, I want to introduce the way people celebrate New Year’s in Japan.

  Let me start off by talking about Hatsumode. Hatsumode, literally translated means a first visit, and is where people visit the shrine for the first time in the new year to pray for good fortune. Some shrines offer amazake, a sweet Japanese sake, and drinking it is said to protect you from the bad luck.
At the temple, priests ring a large bell called joya-no-kane on the night of New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day. The bell is rung 108 times because it is believed to help release the 108 Bonno, a Buddhist word for negative thoughts or pain that clouds one’s mind.
Although people in Japan don’t wear kimono on a regular basis, this is one of the few events where many people wear them and celebrate the start of a new year. 

          Torii (A traditional Japanese Gate)              Japanese Shrine

  It is a Japanese tradition to eat osechi dishes on New Year’s Day. Osechi dishes are prepared before or on New Year’s Eve, so that they can be enjoyed on the morning of New Year’s Day. The content varies between regions and even between families, but most of them include ingredients such as herring roe and black beans, which represent bearing many children, a good harvest, and good health.

 Osechi Dishes

  Also, many houses put up kagami-mochi. Translated as mirror rice cake, it’s an offering for Shinto gods, usually two round rice cakes with an orange on top, on New Year’s Day to pray for good luck. In the old days, mirrors were sacred items that represented the soul, so people offered round rice cake because they looked like a mirror.


  I mentioned some of the Japanese New Year tradition before but there are many more fun and unique ones around the country. If you’re planning on visiting Japan during New Year’s, I definitely recommend you experience some of them.

  We’ll continue to bring you the latest tourism information in Hyogo, as well as many exciting events and information about Japanese culture, so be sure to tune in again next year, on Go! Go! HYOGO.
Have a happy New Year!

Hana (Hyogo Tourism Association)