Japanese New Year Traditions – Food and 5 Less Known Facts

Are you ready to experience the best celebrations of Japanese New Year. You are on the right page.

Here you will find everything a visitor want to know. Moreover, we have shared some lesser know facts about the New Year celebrations in Japan. By the end of this article, you will surely be planning to visit Japan on the New Year.

All the information about celebrations, traditions and activities on the new year in Japan is gathered by going deep in Japanese culture and hand picked the most valuable information to share with you.

New Year’s Eve, known as “Omisoka” in Japan, is a time of celebration as the country prepares to welcome the new year.

Traditions and Customs on Japanese New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day

New Year’s Eve

On New Year’s Eve, many people in Japan visit temples or shrines to pray for good luck and prosperity in the new year. The most popular shrine for this is the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, which attracts millions of visitors each year. People also gather with family and friends to eat a special meal called “Osechi“.

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Countdown celebrations

As the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, many people in Japan participate in countdown celebrations. These can range from small gatherings with friends and family to large-scale events held at temples or in public squares. Many people also watch the “Red and White Song Competition,” a popular New Year’s Eve TV special featuring performances by top Japanese artists.


On New Year’s Day, a tradition of “Hatsumode” is performed at many shrines in Japan. This involves offering a prayer and making a small donation to the shrine. It is believed that this will bring good luck and prosperity in the new year.

New Year’s Day celebrations

New Year’s Day is a national holiday in Japan, and many people take the day off to spend time with family and friends. It is tradition to exchange gifts, such as “Otoshidama,” small envelopes containing money that are given to children and young people.


Another popular New Year’s tradition in Japan is the making and eating of “Mochi,” a type of rice cake made from pounded glutinous rice. Mochi is often served with a variety of toppings, such as sweet bean paste or soy sauce, and is believed to bring good luck in the new year.


New Year’s Day is also known as “Shogatsu,” and is a time for people in Japan to reflect on the past year and set goals for the new one. Many people write “Nengajo,” New Year’s cards, to send to friends and family, and some people also participate in “Hatsu-kinenbi,” the first shrine visit of the year.

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are important times of celebration and reflection in Japan. From the traditional customs of visiting temples and shrines, to the festive celebrations.

Things to do at New Year in Japan as a visitor

If you are planning to visit Japan during the New Year period, there are many activities you can enjoy as a visitor. Here are some suggestions:

Visit a temple or shrine: One of the most popular activities for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in Japan is visiting a temple or shrine. Many people visit these places to pray for good luck and positivity in the new year. Some of the most popular temples and shrines for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day include Meiji Shrine in Tokyo and Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.

Try traditional New Year’s food: New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are a time to enjoy traditional Japanese foods, such as “Osechi Ryori“.

Osechi Ryori is served in a multi-tiered box called a jubako. Each food item in the Osechi Ryori has a special significance or meaning and is believed to bring good luck for the new year. Some common items found in Osechi Ryori include:

  • Kazunoko (herring roe) – symbolizes fertility and abundant offspring
  • Ebi (shrimp) – represents long life and good fortune
  • Kuri Kinton (mashed sweet potatoes with chestnuts) – signifies wealth and prosperity
  • Datemaki (sweet rolled omelette with fish paste) – represents the hope for a long and healthy life
  • Renkon (lotus root) – symbolizes a clear and bright future
  • Tazukuri (dried sardines) – represents a bountiful harvest

You can also try “Mochi,” a type of rice cake made from pounded glutinous rice, which is often served with a variety of toppings and is believed to bring good fortune.

Participate in countdown celebrations: Many cities in Japan hold countdown celebrations on New Year’s Eve, which can be a fun and festive way to welcome the new year. These celebrations may include music, fireworks, and other entertainment.

Japanese New Year countdown is a major event, with many people gathering in public places such as parks, temples, and shrines to ring in the new year.

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One of the most famous New Year’s Eve event in Japan is the “joya no kane” ceremony, in which bells are rung 108 times at temples and shrines across the country. The bell ringing is believed to symbolize the purification of the mind and the casting away of one’s worldly troubles.

Join in the gift-giving: New Year’s Day is a time for gift-giving in Japan. As a visitor, you can join in the tradition by giving gifts to your hosts or friends.

Try new year’s activities: There are many fun events organized in almost every city of Japan for the Japanese New Year Day. Most of which are free to participate and as a visitor in Japan, you are more than welcome for these fun activities.

You can Visit the Official Website of Japan National Tourism Organization for Travel Updates

Here are a few lesser-known facts about the celebration of the New Year in Japan:

The New Year is considered a time of renewal, and many people engage in a thorough cleaning of their homes before the holiday. This is known as osoji, and it is believed to sweep away the bad luck of the previous year and make room for good luck to enter.

One of the most popular New Year’s activities is the playing of hanetsuki, a traditional game similar to badminton. The game is played with wooden paddles and a shuttlecock made of paper or plastic.

Osechi Ryōri, the special New Year’s food, is traditionally prepared in advance and served cold, as it was believed that the kitchen fire should not be lit on New Year’s Day to avoid burning away the good luck for the year.

In addition to the traditional New Year’s foods, it is also common to eat toshikoshi soba, a type of thin wheat noodles, on New Year’s Eve. The long noodles symbolize a long life and a smooth transition into the new year.

Another tradition during Japanese New Year is the display of kadomatsu, a decorative arrangement of pine branches, bamboo, and plum blossoms.

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Conclusion: There are many activities you can enjoy as a visitor during the New Year period in Japan. From traditional customs and celebrations, to trying new foods and participating in gift-giving, there is much to experience and enjoy during this special time of year.

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