5 Fascinating Japanese New Year Traditions You Need to Know

Explore the Enchanting New Year Traditions in Japan: From Hatsumode at Meiji Shrine to Reflecting and Embracing New Beginnings

5 Fascinating Japanese New Year Traditions You Need to Know

Discover the captivating Japanese New Year traditions, from visiting the renowned Meiji Shrine for Hatsumode to embracing new beginnings and reflecting on the past year. Immerse yourself in the enchanting rituals of Oshogatsu and explore the rich cultural heritage of Japan.

Every culture has its unique way of celebrating the arrival of a new year, and Japan is no exception. The Japanese New Year, known as Oshogatsu, is one of the most important holidays in Japan. It is a time for reflection, gratitude, and embracing new beginnings. Lets delve into some of the fascinating traditions associated with the Japanese New Year.

Hatsumode - The First Shrine Visit

One of the most significant customs during the Japanese New Year is Hatsumode, which involves visiting a shrine. People flock to Shinto shrines to express their gratitude for the past year and make wishes for the year to come. The most popular shrine for Hatsumode is Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, where millions of people gather to offer their prayers.

Osechi Ryori - Traditional New Years Food

Osechi Ryori is a special meal prepared specifically for the Japanese New Year. It consists of a variety of beautifully arranged dishes with symbolic meanings. Each food item represents a wish for good health, prosperity, and happiness in the upcoming year. Some popular Osechi Ryori dishes include sweet black beans (symbolizing good health), boiled sea bream (signifying happiness), and herring roe (representing fertility).

Joya-no-kane - The New Years Eve Bell Ringing

On New Years Eve, Buddhist temples across Japan ring large bells 108 times to symbolize the 108 earthly desires that cause human suffering. This tradition, called Joya-no-kane, aims to purify the heart and mind, letting go of attachments and starting the new year with a fresh outlook.

Kadomatsu - Welcoming Symbol

Kadomatsu is a traditional decoration placed in front of homes and businesses to welcome the Shinto deities. These decorations consist of pine branches, bamboo, and plum blossoms, symbolizing long life, prosperity, and purity. It is believed that the Kadomatsu acts as a temporary home for the gods, bringing good fortune throughout the new year.

Toshikoshi Soba - Year-End Noodle Dish

Another unique tradition in Japan is eating Toshikoshi Soba, a type of long, thin buckwheat noodle dish, just before midnight on New Years Eve. This tradition symbolizes letting go of the hardships and challenges of the past year and welcoming the new year with a renewed spirit. It is believed that eating these noodles brings good luck and longevity.


The Japanese New Year is a time when the country comes alive with vibrant traditions and cultural practices. From shrine visits to special meals, bell ringing, and welcoming decorations, each tradition holds deep meaning and significance. It is a time for reflection, gratitude, and setting intentions for the upcoming year. Embracing these customs allows people to connect with their roots and start the new year with a sense of renewal.


Minoru Shiina