In most parts of the world, the New Year’s holiday is over on January 1st. But in Japan, this important holiday lasts until January 3rd. The extra days leave room for a peaceful, mindful approach to ring in the new year, with bell-ringing and shrine rituals, along with national TV shows and the lazy bone’s favorite “heater table”—kotatsu.
Is this, in fact, how our Japanese editor Yoko spent her New Year? While we had fleeting holiday celebrations, Yoko headed home to rural Kyoto to celebrate the biggest holiday in Japan: New Year, or Shougatsu. Here’s how Yoko spends her New Year in Japan!
What do you do for New Year’s Eve in Japan?
We Japanese have many things to do for New Year. Personally, my favorite thing is to watch a special TV program called “Ko-haku Utagassen” (meaning “red and white singing battle”). I like to watch this seasonal program and sing together with my family.
What else do you do on New Year’s Eve?
Eating toshikoshi soba! We eat “toshikoshi soba”, which means “year-crossing soba noodles”, to wish for a long lasting life. My mother makes this soba delicacy every year. I like tempura soba the most!
Cleaning is also big deal on NYE. However, I often run away from that……!
How about kotatsu, the coveted heater table and daybed?
It’s very dangerous, like winter’s trap. Once we’re in a kotatsu, it’s very hard to come out. My mother often says “You’re such a turtle!” So, I’m not sure if I can use it this year!
Do you go to the shrine on New Year’s Day?
“Hatsumoude” is the first visit to a shrine in the new year. On a New Year’s Day, we go to a shrine and wish for health, happiness, and so on at hatsumoude. (This is done at a shrine, not at a temple!)
▲Yoko received a good blessing “omikuji”.
Also, I read New Year’s cards that my friends sent. Nowadays, many people use email; however, I like to use cards printed on paper!
▲ The year 2018 is the year of the dog!
It’s very cold in my hometown, so I wear warm clothes. However, some people wear kimono when going out on New Year’s Day.
▲ The refreshing morning sun over kadomatsu—New Year’s gate evergreens.
That feels very spiritual! What else do you do on New Year’s Day?
When I was a child, I looked forward to getting otoshidamas (Japanese red envelopes). However, now I watch comedy shows on TV, because in Japan, we think “New Year’s Day is the key of the year” and ”Fortune comes in through a merry gate”, so I watch that TV program and laugh a lot!
▲ Yoko’s grandmother is 92 years old!
Finally, what is your wish for the new year, Yoko?
Last year, through working on Pinkoi Zine, I met many people who were working hard to do new things in new ways. It encouraged me very much because they don’t limit themselves to the traditional standards in Japan; they wanted to pave their own way. So this year, I’d like to try to get out of my comfort zone as well, to try new things and discover a hidden passion.
First, travel! I will go to a place I’ve never been. Second, I will meet new people whom I’ve never met. Third, I will keep writing and sharing things people didn’t know before. Also, exercise, reading, waking up early…..I say these ones every year though. ;P
What are your new year wishes? After joining Yoko for her Japanese new year celebration, hopefully everyone feels as refreshed as we do. This year is off to a good start already!
Happy New Year!
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Text: Melissa, Yoko