When is New Year’s Celebration? What do Japanese do on New Year’s Day?




New Year’s Day in Japan is like Christmas in North America. I would say it’s the most important holiday for Japanese. Why? Let’s find out why it’s so important for Japanese and how they spend the day.



When is Japanese New Year’s Day?

Do you know when New Year’s Day in Japan is? Japan uses Gregorian calendar and celebrates New Year’s Day on January 1st. The reason I state this is because some countries have different New Year’s Day.


For instance, in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China, people follow Chinese lunar calendar so New Year’s Day is different every year.

According to Chinese lunar calendar, New Year’s Day for 2017 would be January 28th instead of January 1st.


In Japan between January 1st and 3rd is called Sanganichi (三が日) and most companies have holiday excluding those work for tourists, accommodation, restaurant, convenience store, department stores and any sort of customer service field.

Most companies start holiday around December 29th until January 3rd. If January 4th is Saturday or Sunday, they would have longer holiday.



What is Japanese New Year’s Day like?

Some people go travel, while others stay in their hometown. Traditional Japanese families gather during Sanganichi.

They would have special New Year meals such as Osechi, Ozoni, Oshiruko etc… and enjoy drinking and talking to each other.


Some people go abroad and spend New Year’s Day outside Japan. Others take Shinkansen or air plane to see family members. Thus public transportation tends to be packed and price goes up. If you plan to travel during this period of time, beware.



What do Japanese do on New Year’s Day?



Below are experiences you must try while you are in Japan.


Hatsuhinode (初日の出)



Hatsuhinode at Mt. Fuji



Hatsuhinode literally means first sunrise. Seeing a big sunrise on January 1st is believed to bring luck for coming year.

Since Meiji period (1868-1912) Hatsuhinode has been a popular practice on New Year’s Day.

Some people go to mountains or beach to view Hatsuhinode. Although it’s freezing to stay out and see the sunrise, it makes you energetic and content.



Hatsumode (初詣)



Hatsumode in Asakusa, Tokyo



Japanese visit a temple or shrine during Sanganichi (some go after Sanganichi). It’s called Hatsumode and it’s very popular New Year’s custom in Japan.

Some people go there late night on December 31st and wait in line to make a wish.



Hatsuuri (初売り)

Hatsuuri literally means first sell. Most depertment stores and retails have Hatsuuri sales.

It’s like Boxing Day in Canada or Black Friday in the US. Some places have Fukubukuro which contains great value of items with less price.


Hatsuyume (初夢)

Do you remember your dream everyday? Hatsuyume literally means first dream.

It’s said that if the first dream contains Mt. Fuji, you would be lucky and happy. There are other lucky symbols like an eggplant, but it’s not required to have such items to be happy.


Little Tips on New Year’s Day

New Year’s Day in Japan is statutory holiday and some small shops closed for few days starting the end of December. Also depending on area, certain shops are closed.

If you plan to visit specific area in Japan, check if your destination is open during New Year’s holiday.

City halls, banks will be closed. Temples and shrines are open for sure.


Public transportation including buses and trains would follow holiday schedule.




I used to spend New Year’s Day with my family. My parents were not that strict but I always had a feeling that New Year’s Day was holy and special.

In Canada, there are no Shrines or Hatsuuri sales to visit, so I do miss New Year’s Day in Japan.



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 - New Year's Day/Eve

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