Bring in the New Year Japanese Style
2017 marks the Japanese year of the bird. Far removed from the party-tradition of the West, New Year in Japan (shogatsu) revolves around family, faith and food (…and just a little drink).
How can you herald in the New Year like the Japanese do?
- Hold back on the fireworks (hanabi)
Fireworks, originally used to ward off evil spirits, have a long-standing history in Japan. Most famous for the world’s largest aerial firework shell, with an explosive range of over 2,500ft (to see this firework in action, click here), Japan hosts hundreds of spectacular firework displays every year! However, unlike the UK, summer in Japan in the season of fireworks, therefore, Japanese New Year celebrations do not tend to feature a pyrotechnic display. So, if you’re looking to have an ethnic-themed New Year, skip the fireworks.
- Explore your faith
Once the temple bell has chimed for the 108th time, a literal ringing in of the New Year, people throughout Japan flock to the city’s shrines to make their first prayer of the year. To follow in the footsteps of the Japanese this New Year, consider attending a religious ceremony or spend quiet time in soulful reflection.
- Spoil the children
Although the Japanese tend not to exchange gifts at Christmas, at New Year, Japanese children are quids in. With the value increasing year on year, parents and other relatives give children money in patterned envelopes which they can then spend as they wish. Why not surprise your little-ones and introduce them to Japanese culture this New Year by slipping a note or two in a beautifully decorated Japanese Shugi Bukuro envelope card?
- Spend time with family
In Japan, New Year is the time to return to your hometown and spend time with your family. So, have a traditional Japanese New Year by opting to spend time with your loved ones instead of going to a New Year’s bash with your friends.
- Swap vodka for sake
It is customary in western parts of Japan for each member of the family to drink sake on the morning of New Year’s Day. This ritual is believed to wash away any ill-fortune from the previous year to make way for longevity and good health in the year to come. So, why not do as the Japanese do and switch your spirit to sake this New Year. To make this experience even more authentic, consider investing in a Japanese sake set.
- Whip up some Japanese mochi
This delicious rice cake treat is a big feature of Japanese New Year. Enjoyed sweet or savoury and used for both eating and decoration, Japanese mochi is a must for a Japanese New Year’s celebration. Whether you’re planning on making the cultural ornament kagamimochi (two mochi rice cakes stacked on top of each other and topped with a daidai orange) or looking to add this dish to your New Year’s menu, here are some tips on how to enjoy Japanese mochi this New Year.
Those of you who have flown over to Japan’s capital determined to celebrate New Year in a Japanese-style, be sure to check out these five ways to spend your New Year’s Eve in Tokyo.