Japanese New Year 2019 is celebrated on the 1st of January in the year 2019, which is a yearly festival in Japan and has its own traditions and customs. Japanese New Year is celebrated on the same day as indicated by the Gregorian calendar. In recent times, parties and fireworks have been a part of the celebrations on the previous evening as the whole of Japan countdowns to the end of the present year, welcoming the New Year.
- History Behind The Date For Japanese New Year
Before the Meiji period, Japanese New Year was dependent on the lunar calendar that is still followed by China, Korea and Vietnam. In the year 1873, 5 years post the Meiji Restoration, Japan accepted the Gregorian calendar’s New Year, as its official New Year’s Day.
- Traditional Food Prepared For The New Year
The Japanese custom has a variety of traditional food items to celebrate the New Year, known as Osechi-ryōri or Osechi. Many of the dishes are either sweet or sour. It can also be dry, so that the food can be stored without refrigeration. Variation of Osechi can be found across Japan.
Another traditional dish of Japan Ozōni is quite popular for this day. It is basically a soup consisting of a rice cake called mochi along with other ingredients. The ingredients, other than mochi, differ from region to region. The seventh day of January is known as Jinjitsu. On this day, a 7 herb rice soup called Nanakusa-gayu, is prepared to let the overworked stomach rest. Toshikoshi soba is a kind of buckwheat noodles that is popularly consumed on New Year’s Eve.
- Mochi: A Customary Preparation For Japanese New Year
A popular custom is Japan is the preparing rice cakes called Mochi and then eating the cakes. Mochigome, boiled sticky rice, is placed in a container known as Usu which is made of wood. This is patted down with water by someone, while another one keeps hitting it with a large wooden mallet. This ultimately forms a sticky white colored dumpling. It is usually prepared before New Year’s Day and consumed as the New Year starts.
It can also be used to prepare a decoration known as Kagami Mochi. This is usually made of 2 round cakes and has a tangerine known as Daidai, set on the top. Daidai is a name, which is meant to be auspicious and translates to “several generations”.
- Hatsumode: Japanese Tradition
Hatsumode is a tradition, wherein the people visit a shrine or temple for the first time in the New Year. It is a tradition that is followed all across Japan on the initial days of the year, especially on 1st of January.
Some of the popular shrines and temples have a festive mood and atmosphere for the New Year. Festivities include food stands, purchase of luck charms and much more. Places like Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine, Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Taisha, Kamakura’s Tsuruoka Hachimangu and Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Taisha, attract a huge number of visitors.
- Bell Ringing: A Common Tradition Of Japan
As the clock strikes 12 on the night of 31st December, Buddhist temples across Japan ring the bell 108 times. It symbolizes the 108 sins according to Buddhist belief. Ringing the bell 108 times can get rid of worldly desires. The Watched Night bell in the city of Tokyo is a major tourist attraction; it is rung a 107 times on the 31st and then one more time after the clock strikes 12.
- Sending Out Postcards On New Year
Japanese people love to send out postcards before the arrival of the New Year, so that friends, family and colleagues receive it on the 1st of January. If a death has occurred in the family, then people refrain from sending the postcards and instead send a postcard, known as Mochū Hagaki, informing friends or relatives that they should not send in New Year’s card, as a sign of respect for the dead. These cards are also known as mourning postcards.
- Conventional Greetings Exchanged During New Year
Some of the greetings that are traditionally used to greet the New Year include:
1. Kotoshi mo yoroshiku o-negai-shimasu, which translates to “I count on your good will for this year”
2. Akemashite o-medetō-gozaimasu, means On the dawn of New Year, may you be blessed with happiness
3. Kinga Shinnen literally means Happy New Year
4. Gashō, on the other hand, means “to celebrate January”
5. Geishun is a greeting, which means “to welcome spring”
- Otoshidama : A New Year Custom For Children
Otoshidama is a tradition followed by the Japanese people on the first day of New Year. It is a custom, which involves money being presented to the children. The money is usually presented in beautifully decorated envelopes known as Pochibukuro. The money given to the kids depends on how old the child is, but in case there is more than a single child, the amount remains same for all children. This is done to prevent the feeling of being slighted.
- Poetry For New Year
Japanese Poetry is an important part of New Year traditions. Japanese poems like Haiku or Renga are the popular options for this day. Kigo are seasoned words that might be included in the poems. Other words like hatsuhi (first sun), waraizome (first laughter) and hatsuyume (first dream) may also be a part of the New Year Poems.
- Little New Year Celebrations
This might not actually fall on the first day of the New Year, but it is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, around the middle of February. It is still a part of the New Year celebrations and is known as Little New Year. Some of the major events include Koshōgatsu, which includes rituals and prayers for a bountiful harvest. Other traditions include consumption of azuki beans and rice gruel. This marks the end of New Year celebrations, as decorations are taken down. It usually corresponds to the popular Chinese Lantern Festival.