New year is the most important day of the year in Japan. Most businesses closes operation from 1st of January to 3rd of January. Families gather together to spend the last night of the previous year and the new year together.
Eat before the new year – Toshikoshi Soba
Before 0am of the new year’s day, it is a tradition to eat soba noodles.
What do Japanese people do on New Years Day?
It is tradition for Japanese family to hatsumoude – meaning to visit temple or shrine to pray (sanpai) for the good year ahead.
What is Hatsuyume?
Hatsuyume is the first dream one has in the new year. The content of the dream determines whether the year will be lucky year or not.
Don’t forget to give Otoshidama
Otoshidama is a Japanese traditional custom where adults give money to the children of their family, relatives or friends. The money is given in a small rectangular envelope called puchibukuro or otoshidama bukuro. As well as the traditional envelopes, you can purchase fun and cute looking envelopes with anime characters and illustrations.
There is no strict rule to how much money you should give. It can vary depending on the child’s age, how close you are, and what other relatives are giving out. For those of you who needs a bit of indication, you can give a 5 year old a 500 yen coin, and a 10 year old a 1000 yen note.
Enjoy Rice Cake
Rice cakes (Mochi / Omochi) in Japan are eaten all year around, but it is tradition to eat on the new year’s day. People cook rice cakes in different ways depending on which cities you’re from but commonly it’s either
a) cooked in clear soup with meat, fish cakes and/or vegetables;
b) cooked with red bean soup for sweet flavour;
c) boiled mochi or grilled mochi with soy bean powder and sugar for sweet flavour; or
d) grilled mochi with soy sauce wrapped with seaweed.
Rice cakes are very sticky so if you have young children or elders, you should be very careful. Every year, you see news about old people choking with rice cakes and taken to hospital.