New Year  (shogatsu or oshogatsu) is one of the most anticipated day in Japan. It is one of their most important holidays that they celebrate. Usually, most of the business are close from January 1 to January 3 to celebrate this holiday and families gather to celebrate this together.

As the New Year is fast approaching, let us know some of the traditions during New Year’s Holiday of the Japanese and how they celebrate it.

Joya no Kane (除夜の鐘)

Around midnight of the New Year’s Eve, you may hear bell ringings  coming from Buddhist Temple all over Japan. The reason of this is that, Buddhist Temples ring their bonsho (temple bells) in this time for 108 times. This number is a representation of human desires and feelings that is believe by Buddhist. Joya no kane is a ritual which drives the negativity from the past year and it is for new beginnings.

Osechi Ryori (おせち料理)

Osechi Ryori are traditional Japanese New Year foods that started in Heian Era. You can easily say that it is Osechi by the box which is called “jūbako (重箱)” that looks like obento.

Each food in the Osechi represents a particular wish for New Year. For example, if there is Kazunoko (数の子) or herring roe in the Osechi, the wish is to be gifted with children in the New Year. Kazu means “number” and ko means “child.”

Toshikoshi Soba (年越し蕎麦)

Also called as the Year End Soba, Toshikoshi Soba is a traditional Japanese Noodles which is eaten in New Year’s Eve. It symbolizes long life filled with precision and letting go of the hardship for the previous year as soba is easy to cut.

Kagami-mochi (鏡もち)

Kagami mochi is classic New Year’s food and often translated as “Mirror Rice Cake”. This New Year’s food is a two layered rice cake with “daidai” (type of orange) placed on top. Daidai means “generations” and it symbolizes the continuation of a family from generation to generation.

Hatsumode (初詣)

Hatsumode is the first visit to Temples and Shrines during the few days of the New Year. Family and relatives pray together for a great fortune for the whole year. Some Japanese also buy some “omikuji” (Japanese fortune-telling paper strips) and some write wishes on “Ema” (wooden plates).

Oosoji (大掃除)

Oosoji is Japan’s equivalent to “Spring Cleaning”, where the whole family cleans the house especially the windows in the last weekend of the year.