How to celebrate Japanese new year

How to celebrate Japanese New Year in Tokyo- A Unique Experience

By Honor Dargan

What’s the big deal? It’s just Japanese New Year Right?

Wrong! Japanese new year is different. Before I came here, New Year meant going out drinking, letting my hair down and making resolutions that somehow I never managed to keep. On the Japanese calendar, however, Japanese New Year, or Oshogatsu in Japanese, is considered to be one of the most important events in the year.

The key things you need to know are:

-Japanese New Year runs for a period of 3-5 days

-Many businesses and shops will close for the duration of this period

-This is a time when people return home to their families

-Make sure you can access your cash!

-Enjoy the 108 bells to welcome the Japanese New Year

Japanese New Year Cards

It is traditional to send cards to friends, family and business acquaintances to wish them a successful new year. This is very important for building business relationships. If you go into any of the local shops at this time you will see presentation boxes on sale full of cookies, rice cakes, or other traditional items that are often sent with the cards.

The best cards, however, are the ones that are sent to Japanese children for New Year called Otoshidama. These cards are beautiful in themselves, but it’s what’s inside them that excites most children. The tradition at Japanese New Year is that grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and so on, will give money tucked inside these cards for the children to spend as they wish.

Travel and Hotel Bookings

If you are planning on visiting Tokyo or Japan at this time of year make sure to book in advance. As I said earlier, many people are on the move across the country at this time to visit family and relatives. If you don’t book in advance you may well find yourself standing for the duration of your journey, if you are able to get on a train or bus at all.

Hotels are also busy as some take advantage of the break from work to take a few days holiday. As with the trains, make sure you have booked in advance! Whatever you do, don’t arrive on the fly hoping to find a bed to rest your head. There’s no guarantee you’ll find one!

Bonenkai and Shinenkai Parties

During December, in the run up to Japanese New Year, groups of people who either work or study together have year end parties Bonenkai. These are to celebrate the start of a clean sheet. Be warned that these tend to be rather noisy affairs, especially if you get a group of students out together. They are a lot of fun though, and if you are invited to join a party this is a real chance to see Japanese culture in action. As you can see, Japanese New Year is anything but dull.

Honor Dargan is a self-confessed UK Tokyoite with a passion for the city she calls the Big T. Honor has lived in Tokyo since 2001 and her website. a unique inside spin on what to do during a stay in the city. Find out why 108 bells are run at Japanese New Year and why you need to make sure you can access your cash by visiting Tokyotopia.

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