Culture Society

10 Japanese New Year's Traditions

"Oshogatsu" (the Japanese New Year) has come. For many visitors from overseas, many of the traditional and customs of Oshogatsu may seem hard to understand. Oshogatsu is the celebration of the New Year and is the most important holidays in Japan, comparable to Christmas in Western countries. 

Here is the 10 Japanese New Year's Traditions to help you understand Oshogatsu in Japan.

1) Hatsuhinode(初日の出)

Hatsu hinode(初日の出)” refers to the first sunrise of the year. In Japan, Hatsu hinode is celebrated at the crack of the year's first dawn, and lots of people go somewhere special to experience it. Some people climb up a mountain before dawn to see the first rays. Click here to know more about Hatsu hinode. 

2) Hatsumode(初詣) 

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"Hatsumode(初詣)" is the first visit paid on the New Year holidays to a shrine or temple. People pray for a long life and happiness for the year. Click here to know more about Hatsumode

3) Osechi-ryori(おせち料理)

"Osechi-ryori(おせち料理)" are special dishes for the New Year holidays. A variety of ingredients such as fish, black beans, rolled kelp, and vegetables are prepared and arranged artfully in a set of layered lacquer boxes. 

4) Shimekazari(しめ飾り) 

"Shimekazari(しめ飾り)" is a decoration of twisted straw rope with fern leaves, an orange, and other items of good fortune. It is placed over the entrance of a house during the New Year holidays in Japan. 

5) Kadomatsu(門松) 

"Kadomatsu(門松)" is a decoration consisting of a set of pine branches and bamboo. It is placed at the front door of many houses and buildings during the New Year holidays in Japan. Kadomatsu symbolizes longevity and prosperity. 

6) Nengajo(年賀状) 

"Nengajo(年賀状)" are greeting cards sent to friends, business acquaintances, and customers, to wish them a happy New Year in Japan. This Japanese custom is similar to the Western practice of sending Christmas cards. 

7) Omamori(お守り) 

"Omamori(お守り)" is a good luck charm consisting of a piece of paper, wood, or cloth in a small cloth pouch. It is kept as protection from illness, accidents, and disasters. 

8) Ema(絵馬) 

"Ema(絵馬)" is a picture tablet on which is written. It is offered to a shrine or temple when one prays for a particular blessing or when a prayer has been answered. The tablet sometimes bears a picture of a house because people once offered real horses. 

9) Omikuji(おみくじ) 

"Omikuji(おみくじ)" are fortunes written on slips of paper. People buy them at shrines and, occasionally, temples, and tie them onto the branches of nearby trees in hopes that a good fortune will come true or that a bad fortune will be kept away. 

10) Tsurigane(釣鐘) 

"Tsurigane(釣鐘)" is the bell of a Buddhist temple. It was originally employed in sounding the hours of the day, but now its main use is on New Year's Eve when it is struck 108 times. 

We hope all of you have a wonderful and Happy New Year!