New Years in Japan

So, I’ve covered Christmas in Japan, now on to the big holiday here, New Years. On Christmas Day, no-one said “Merry Christmas” or anything 🙁 but there’s a whole range of phrases and rules with New Years!

It’s a big holiday, and everyone gets at least 3 days off, though most companies give a week, even Nova when I worked there would close down for a week (they never closed for any other National Hoidays, not even Golden Week).

Leading up to New Years companies have “Bonenkai” which is forget the year parties.
Involving much food and drinking.
As with most celebrations and holidays in Japan there are special foods you should eat. On New Years Eve itself you have soba.

New Years Soba

New Years Soba


The other big food is “Mochi”, which is like a thick, chewy ball made of rice. This is toasted and put in soup, or nabe, or skewered over a grill and eaten, marshmallow style. Or it’s just put on display under a tangerine…
Mochi

Mochi


I’m not a big fan of this, but my girlfriend loves it. I only had one in my soup, she kept going back for more.

Oh I forgot to mention, it’s customary for companies to give their customers or suppliers presents, such as beer, or food. Supermarkets and Department stores sell special boxed packages of these. Our company got lots from their customers so it was divided amongst us. It included 2 cans of beer 🙂 a load of mochi (Aki was v. pleased), a box of rice crackers (sembei) and some tea bags.
Very nice.

On New Years Day, again there is special food, “Oseichi“, which is a collection of small foods, chestnuts, black beans and other odd stuff, displayed in a lacquer box. We’re not a big fan of these, so we mix in cold meats and cheeses…

Oseichi

Oseichi


From lunchtime onwards you drink Nihonshu (sake) 🙂 This year I got a big bottle (the start of my collection of 1.8l bottles) with sake and gold flakes, for Christmas, so we drank that.
Nihonshu

Nihonshu


Going back to New Years Eve, my favourite part of the holiday is the music extravaganza on NHK. This is an annual event for the past 30 or so years, and goes on for about 4 hours. It’s a competition between the Red team (the girls), and the White (boys), hosted by Mr. SMAP himself, Nakaikun. Who this year went through many increasingly bizarre costume changes, including an ill fitting woolen outfit knitting maybe by his gran…
Nice Outfit

Nice Outfit


(He’s the one on the left in the ill fitting woolen outfit), and for the finale, a tribute I guess Ernie Wise..
Nice Shorts

(he's the one with the short fat hairy legs)


The Boys nearly always win, as they did this year, and not wanting to sound sexist, having sat through 3 years of this show, it’s not that surprising. The girls all look very cute, beautiful with amazing (and sometimes very saucy) outfits, but can’t sing for toffee flavoured mochi.
Whereas the blokes, can actually string a series of notes together. There were some exceptions on both sides but overall, not good on the girls side. Perhaps they concentrate too much on Morning Musume and AKB48 (the former are a collection of about 10 young girls ranging from 8-15, and the latter a collection of about 40 girls ranging from 12-18), who look cute and genki but are basically a bunch of cute and genki dancers, and not a singing troupe.

This year there was a lavish, expensive appearance by Gackt, some hard rockers, who turned up with about a 100 samurai followers for a show that could have been taken from Onimusha or something. A highlight (the other being Mr. SMAP’s wardrobe).

Gackt

Gackt


They announce the winner by lighting up Tokyo Tower in the appropriate colour.
Blue Won!

Blue Won!


This finishes about midnight, and is followed by live televised broadcasts of shrines around the country where they ring a bell 108 times (to atone for the potential 108 sins humans can commit). This is our cue to fill up a thermos of hot sake and head of to our local shrine, to queue up, give our offering and prayers, and buy the good luck charms for the coming year. It was v. cold but good fun.
Ninja!

Ninja!


Ninjaette

Ninjaette


The first visit to the shrine (and many people’s only visit a year I think) is important, and has it’s own word, “Hatsumoude“.

And that’s it. Oh, kids are given money from family, and everyone has a few days of and visits family, onsen(hot springs) (we went to Shirahama onsen in Wakayama), or just relaxes.

…Doh, I forgot the phrases. Before New Years (when leaving the office on the last day for example) you say “Yoi otoshi o!” – have a good New Year.

After New Years, you have to say “Agemashita omedeto gozaimasu“, congratulations on a new year – I think, followed by, “Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu“, this year please me nice to me like you were last year (my own, loose translation).


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[…] New Years break is nearly upon us (New Years is big here, Christmas not so, everyone still works on that day). Although they do enjoy Kurisumasu, as […]

[…] talked about New Years in Japan before and the traditional four hour long singing competition between the girls and boys on NHK, […]

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