New Year's Day Shogatsu

hatsumode new year's day postcard kagami-mochi

What Japanese do on New Year's Day!?

The Japanese New Year called "Shogatsu" in Japanese means an annual festival or a time period of the New Year days. Many Japanese celebrate the New Year by attending Shogatsu event and eating Shogatsu dishes called Osechi during the first three days of New Year.

It is said that Shogatsu is an oldest annual event though there are many theories about its origin. Japanese greet Toshigami who is a god of the New Year and celebrate Shogatsu at least since 6th century. They believe he give huge harvest and perfect health over the year to them.

kagami-mochi rice cake

Many Japanese decorate their house with Kadomatsu, Kagami-mochi to welcome Toshigami. Kadomatsu is the New Year's pine decoration which stands at the entrance. Toshigami go houses which is decorated with it as a sign. Kagami-mochi is a round rice-cake topped with a bitter orange to offered for him. They cook and eat it to get his power after Shogatsu.

There are several New Year's dishes in Japan, Osechi-ryori and Zoni are major New Year's dishes. Osechi-ryori consits of many dishes which are packed in the boxes like bento boxes. Zoni is a soup with vegetables, meat, and rice cake.

In addition, many Japanese go to a shrine or temple for Hatsumode which means one's first visit of the year. It is said that people will get benefit and be more happy by it this year. In the past, people pray towards a shrine or temple. They actually visit there before they were aware of that. Some Japanese also go to a mountain for Hatsuhinode which means the first sunrise of the year.


On the other hand, some Japanese go and see their parents in Shogatsu. There is a custom that an adult give a child a small sum of money called Otoshida then. The origin of it is the master of the house gave children candies which had a new year's power. Generally speaking, an adult give an elementary school student from 10 to 50 dollars, junior high school student from 30 to 50 dollars, high school student and college student from 50 to 100 dollars.

A New Year's card called Nengajyo is more popular than a Christmas card in Japan. Japanese send it to parents, friends, boss, co-workers, partners if they cannot visit and excahnge New Year's greeting. However, the number of it is declinng due to expansion of the internet. Japan Post Corporation started several new services, New Year's card trade, WebPo and more to stop decining. Users of the New Year's trade People can send it by internet only if they don't know the address of friend. Users of the WebPo can also send it without printing and posting. Nevertheless, the number of it has been declining every year.


By the way, spending time of Shogatsu varies as times change. Some Japanese take domestic or foreign travel without doing above Shogatsu customs. Bullet trains and airplane are crowded by travelers and people who go parent's house.

If you travel Japan in the New Year days, you can experience Japanese culture through osechi, Hatsumode and more. Note that many shops, restaurants and department stores close in the first three days of the year.