Akemashite Omedetou!! (Happy New Year!) Wow I can’t believe a whole year just flew by. 2015 was incredible, maybe my favorite year ever! Ate copious amounts of Frites in Belgium, finally connected with relatives and learned about my roots in the Netherlands, got ENGAGED in France, MOVED to Japan. Overall I would give 2015 and A+. Let’s see what 2016 has in store.
One of best things about living abroad is learning and experiencing how other cultures celebrate different holidays. Japan loves New Years I would even venture to say that its the biggest holiday they celebrate. In the weeks leading up to New Years Mike and I did our best to do a little homework by asking our Japanese students how they typically celebrate the big year and then by doing them ourselves!
Kagami Mochi– This is a very common decoration seen in every restaurant, shop, home, and office during New Years. There are many sizes and varieties that you can buy to decorate your space with. All of them consist of 2 round mochi rice cakes stacked on top of each other and a small bitter orange on top. It is supposed to symbolize something along the lines of the spirit of generations. Basically to bring good health and harvest to your family. On January 11th you eat the Kagami Mochi! Stay tuned for more!
Kadomatsu- Meaning gate pine is generally placed outside of entrances and helps to welcome ancestral spirits. It is made up of bamboo, pine, and tree sprigs. Each symbolizing something different. Again in general to bring your family longevity and prosperity. Around the 19th of January these are then burned. (More to come of that later)!
Shimekazari- Japan’s version of America’s Christmas wreaths. Mostly made out of rope these are hung up on doors and are supposed to ward off bad spirits.
When it comes to New Years Rituals Japan has A LOT of them. The most common answers we found:
Cleaning: Doesnt matter if your old, young, male, female. Everyone has to help with the old fashion job of CLEANING! Thats right, start the year off fresh and clean. Get rid of all the junk that you have laying around and tidy up your life! Having a clean house purifies your home and welcomes the Gods of the New Years. Since we are pretty clean people to begin with and don’t have a whole lot of things here in Japan this was an easy task!
Kohaku Uta Gassen– This is Japans version of America’s countdown show. It’s a year song festival that highlights all the years hit songs and artists during a friendly males vs. females (Red vs. white) competition. We watched this on New Years Eve and I have to admit it was hilarious. Of course we didn’t understand any of it. But it was pretty entertaining none the less and we finally got to see and hear the infamous J Pop boy bands that everyone talks about! And of course the Females won this year! GO RED!
The Countdown: The TV show only went until roughly 11:55 pm and then it cut to local shrines in each prefecture in Japan! We had originally planned on walking over to a local shrine around midnight to see the festivities but with it being cold and dark we opted for the more comfortable route by watching it on TV. But don’t worry we did make it to a shrine the following day! (More to come)