New Year in Japan is also referred as ‘Shogatsu’ or ‘Oshogatsu’. It is officially celebrated in according to the Georgian calendar on January 1. However, Japan observes extended celebrations, which start from December 31 of the Old Year, and go on till the January 3 of the New Year.
New Year time is considered as a important part of the year in the lives of Japanese people, and thus considering the same, most of the organizations and businesses remain close usually for first three days of the year. People like to spend this time in celebrating, holidaying, and getting back to the family and friends.
Traditional Significance of New Years Eve in Japan
New Years Eve is traditionally considered as a mark, which distinct the Old Year with the New Year. New Years Eve is also a point to give a new and fresh start to the life, leaving behind all troubles, miseries, and failures. This is quite reflective in an old tradition or event of ‘bonenkai parties’, which in its literal meaning refers to ‘Year Forgetting Parties’. It is an occasion which calls for moving ahead, leaving behind all the past worries, troubles, miseries, and failures with the passed second. Other than that, New Years Eve is also a deadline for Japanese people to completely fulfill all their past duties.
As a part of the preparations of celebrations on New Years Eve, people clean up their houses and clothes, and decorate the entrance part of the house with pine, bamboo, and plum trees. This ‘cleaning up the house’ process is traditionally referred as ‘Ousouji’ in Japan. Performing it is considered as a sign of willingness with which one is welcoming the New Year, and also one’s hope and expectations of a better New Year in comparison to the Old Year.
As a part of the special feast organized on New Years Eve, it is ensured to include toshikoshi soba or buckwheat noodles in the menu, as it is traditionally believed to denote for longevity (drawing from the long noodle size). After cleaning the house, women prepare ‘Osechi’, a dish based on fish, beans, and egg. Though, this dish is not eaten on the same day, and is rather consumed a few days after the arrival of New Year. It is done on certain believes.
One states that one should not use cooking knife for three days since the arrival of New Year. The other states to offer a respite to the women of the house, who otherwise cook daily all through the year. Meanwhile till the time women complete their cooking, men of the house remain engaged in decorating the front gate of the house from an adornment made out of rice stems. There is a belief that doing so will confer the household with good harvest year, good fortune, and an overall good year ahead.
From past few time in the long history of Japan, the custom of watching the television program of ‘Kohaku Uta Gassen’ has emerged to be an intrinsic part of New Year time. It is basically a music based program, with some of the most eminent Japanese music performers of J-pop and enka performing on it. There is another popular program, which is telecasted as ‘Singing Battle between the Red and the White Team’.
This show has been a part of the New Years Eve celebrations of Japanese people from more than five decades, and in fact claims itself to hold about fifty percent of the overall viewership on New Years Eve in Japan. It has been a part of the lives of Japanese people, who while watching this program bid their good bye to the Old Year and welcome the New Year.
New Years Eve in Japan concludes with Juya Na Kane, which in its literal meaning refers to ‘the watch-night bell’. As a part of it, a bell is ring for 108 times. This tradition has been adopted from the principles of Buddhism, according to which doing so sways 108 different types of sins or defilements of mankind such as poorness, uncertainties, selfishness, miseries, and problems away, with the arrival of the New Year.