Party on Omisoka? How do Japanese Spend New Year’s Eve in Japan?
Wondering how Japanese spend New Year’s Eve? I love New Year’s Eve in Japan! This post introduces what Japanese do on New Year’s Eve.
What is New Year’s Eve (Omisoka: 大晦日) like in Japan?
What is Nengajo? Find out about Japanese New Year card → History and How to Write New Year Card
New Year’s Eve in Japan is pretty busy. There are numerous events and parties. Unlike foreign countries, there is no firework.
Younger people tend to go out during night, while older people stay at home during night.
How do Japanese Spend New Year’s Eve?
Shopping starts even before New Year’s Eve. This shopping usually includes grocery shopping to buy food for New Year’s Day.
Some Japanese cook traditional New Year’s dishes, so they need to buy enough ingredients.
Although big supermarkets in cities open on New Year’s Day, people tend to buy whatever they need on New Year’s Eve. That way they don’t have to shop next couple days.
People in rural areas must go shopping because most shops will be closed between January 1st to 3rd.
Osechi: Eaten on New Year’s Day. Some people buy, while others cook by themselves.
Ozoni: Eaten on New Year’s Day. My favorite!
Oshiruko: Sweet red bean and rice cake. Yummyyy
Many, if not all, Japanese cook special food for New Year’s Day. It includes Osechi, Ozoni, Oshiruko, etc…
Since some dishes take time to cook, people start to prepare food on December 31st so that they can eat with family members next day.
Japanese also clean on New Year’s Eve. This complete cleaning (o-souji: 大掃除) is done to remove dirt and welcome God of New Year.
There is no specific rule but many people usually clean after December 28th. It takes time to complete all cleaning, so they might need a few days.
Eat, Eat and Eat!
Japanese New Year is all about eating! Eat in the morning, afternoon and night. Keep eating. And it starts on New Year’s Eve.
And some people gain weight due to excessive high calories during New Year holiday.
One of the popular dishes is “Toshi-koshi Soba noodle” (Toshi-koshi Soba: 年越しそば) and Japanese eat it by 12a.m. on January 1st.
They eat it to remove all the bad luck. Why not Udon or Ramen?
Soba is easy to eat and CUT. Ancient Japanese used to eat Soba to CUT all the bad luck. That’s how Japanese started to eat it.
There are special TV programs on New Year’s Eve. The most famous one is probably the “Year-End Song Festival” (Kohaku Uta Gassen:紅白歌合戦).
Popular singers sing songs and wish a good year in this program. This year is 71st anniversary.
It will air 7:30p.m. to 11:45p.m. on December 31st.
Visit a Shrine or Temple
Are you wondering why they visit Shrines or Temples on New Year’s Eve? Well, technically they visit there AFTER New Year’s Eve (after 12a.m. on January 1st ) but they would go and wait on line BEFORE New Year’s Day.
I don’t know why but I feel pretty excited to go Hastumode right after 12a.m. I think other Japanese feel the same and they try to go as soon as possible.
It’s pretty common to go to New Year’s Eve Party in Canada and the US.
Going to countdown party is getting popular especially in Japanese cities. For instance, there are too many parties in Tokyo and you will have difficult time choosing.
People would go to party, dance, drink and share the countdown excitement.
This year, however, most organizer tend to have less guests due to COVID-19.
Some even cancel the event.
Thus it might be better to stay at home 🙂
Any Late Trains on New Year’s Eve?
One of the great things to live in Tokyo is that trains don’t sleep on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Depending on lines, the last train of the day would be sometime after 12a.m. or 1a.m. on typical days. However, there would be NO last trains on New Year’s Eve in Tokyo.
The frequency is low but JR and subways take you to destination all night long. This is because lots of people go to Hatsumode after 12a.m. They take trains to go to Hatsumode.
As mentioned in What is Hatsumode Like in Japan? it’s one of the biggest events for railway companies (and of course for Shrines and Temples).
—–Updated on Dec 17, 2020—–
★ In Tokyo area, trains like JR and Tokyo Metro planned to run their trains all night long on New Year’s Eve. However, Yuriko Koike, the Governor of Tokyo, requested them NOT TO RUN the TRAINS all night long. She is concerned about COVID-19 and asking people to go Hatsumode on another day.★
How I spent New Year’s Eve in Japan
When I was in Japan, I was very excited to spend New Year’s Eve with my friends. I would start cleaning house after Christmas and finish up cleaning on New Year’s Eve.
Then I would have dinner with my friends and go to their house or we would visit a Shrine or Temple. I would go close to 12a.m. or even after when visiting a Shrine or Temple. This visit is called Hatsumode (初詣). Many people wait on line to make a wish.
Wherever I go, I see New Year’s Day as a sacred day. It’s the day before New Year’s Day. If you live in cities, go out and feel the excitement!
This year is a bit different due to COVID-19. But I do hope you have a great time.
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