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Japanese New Year Traditions

Japanese New Year Traditions

Hello Smilers! Did you manage to do everything that you wanted to do this year? 2022 is coming to an end in a blink of an eye! We hope that you achieve all your goals in 2022. How will you be spending the new year? Are you bored of spending it the same old way?  Why not try the Japanese way this year? 

Today we are going to share with you the traditions that Japanese people do during the New Year. 

Table of contents

1. Eating Toshikoshi Soba on New Years’ Eve

Toshikoshi Soba

Source: https://livejapan.com/en/article-a0000814/

While watching your favorite TV shows, usually the Kohaku Uta Gassen or Gakinotsukai, the Japanese people will eat the Toshikoshi Soba. Toshikoshi means the end of the year and so it means the end of the year Soba. It is eaten at the end of the year as Soba symbolizes a few things: It is said that because Soba is easy to bite and break off, it symbolizes breaking off the old year. The thin and long shape of the Soba represents long and healthy life.

You can have the soba hot or cold according to your liking. Be sure to give the Toshikoshi Soba a try for good fortune!

2. Hatsumode


Source: https://tokyocheapo.com/entertainment/cheapo-weekend-dec-30-31-new-years-eve-special/

Hatsumode is to visit shrines and temples during the first 3 days of the New Year. This is to give thanks for the previous year and pray for blessings and a good year ahead. People will usually queue in famous temples and shrines too at midnight.

From my personal experience during the New Year in 2022. When I visited a shrine at midnight near my house after I gave thanks, I received an amazake a sweet warm sake from the people in charge to warm myself. Personally, it was something new but it was a good experience for me.

3. Hatsuhinode


Source: https://matcha-jp.com/en/1518

Hatsuhinode may sound like Hatsumode but it has a different meaning. Hatsuhinode is to see the first sunrise of the year. This is to welcome the New Year and people often pray for good fortune, make New Year’s resolutions, and set goals while watching the first sunrise. Japanese teenagers would usually stay up all night and go to a mountain or the beach before sunrise to witness Hatsuhinode with their friends.

4. Eating Osechi


Source: https://www.nippon.com/en/japan-glances/jg00132/

Osechi is a traditional Japanese cuisine that is served during the New Year holiday. Osechi is usually made or bought days before the New Year to prevent preparing dishes during the New Year. Osechi is made up of many small dishes and each dish represents a different meaning. For example, one of the small dishes in Osechi is black soybeans. Black soybeans in Japanese is kuromame. Mame means bean in Japanese and it sounds like the Japanese word mamemameshii which means diligent. So the Japanese people eat the black soybean Osechi in the hope of fostering healthy diligence in the year ahead.

All the food in Osechi represents a different meaning. You can look up the name of the food and find the meaning behind each of them on Google! Be sure to try them if you have not. There are a lot of different types of Osechi and you can find the one that you might like in the supermarket near you.

Do try spending New Year’s the Japanese way this year. I am sure it will be a great experience for everyone. Happy new year from the Smiles team to everyone!

Related article:

  1. Japan New Year TV Specials 2021 and 2022

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