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HomeCookbookJapanese New 12 months - Oshogatsu お正月 • Simply One Cookbook

Japanese New 12 months – Oshogatsu お正月 • Simply One Cookbook

How do the Japanese rejoice the Japanese New 12 months? Study extra concerning the meals, traditions, and numerous customs noticed throughout this festive vacation.

Osechi with Ise-Ebi | Easy Japanese Recipes at

Japanese New 12 months (Shogatsu or Oshogatsu お正月) is an important vacation in Japan. Since 1873 within the Meiji period, the official New 12 months has been celebrated on January 1st on account of Western affect, as an alternative of the New 12 months based mostly on the lunar calendar (a.okay.a., Chinese language New 12 months). This annual pageant comes with many traditions and customs, and every remark is imbued with particular that means.

To usher in new beginnings, I’m excited to share with you ways the Japanese individuals bid farewell to the outdated 12 months and welcome the brand new 12 months.

How the Japanese Rejoice the New 12 months – Meals, Customs & Traditions

December – Shiwasu

The month of December known as Shiwasu (師走) in Japanese, and the kanji (the written phrase) actually means “masters/lecturers run.” It mainly implies that December is so busy that even self-composed masters/lecturers are on the run.

On the finish of the 12 months, individuals ship out items known as Oseibo (お歳暮) to their managers, clients, and lecturers to specific appreciation for the entire 12 months. Common reward objects embrace contemporary meals (seafood, meat, and fruits), condiments, beer, tea/espresso, canned meals, desserts, and reward certificates.

Earlier than the businesses shut down from the final week of the 12 months to the primary week of New 12 months, there are numerous year-end events with colleagues and executives known as Bonenkai (忘年会), which suggests “forget-the-year occasion.”

Throughout the previous couple of days of December, individuals meticulously clear their houses, places of work, and companies from prime to backside. This annual custom is known as Oosouji (大掃除), “the massive cleansing”. We consider it’s vital to remove the mud, grime, and muddle from the passing 12 months and to welcome the Japanese New 12 months with a clear and contemporary emotional state.


By katorisi [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], through Wikimedia Commons

After the home is cleaned, New 12 months’s decorations like kado matsu (門松) are arrange on each side of the entrance entrance. They’re manufactured from pine and three bamboo stalks which are minimize diagonally in numerous lengths. Pine boughs are symbolic of longevity and bamboo stalks are symbolic of prosperity.

Japanese New Year Kadomatsu | Easy Japanese Recipes at

My native Japanese grocery retailer sells mini kadomatsu decorations like this (proven above) however there are far more ornament selections in Japan.

Kadomatsu - Japanese New Year Decorations
Japanese New Year decorations on store shelf

A conventional ornament Kagami mochi (鏡餅), which accurately means “mirror rice cake,” is positioned inside the home.

Homemade Kagami Mochi
Photograph Credit score: Devlyn; Do-it-yourself Kagami Mochi by Konko Spirit

Kagami mochi is manufactured from two spherical mochi, with the smaller mochi positioned atop the bigger mochi. The spherical form of mochi represents concord within the household and mochi’s stretchy texture symbolizes hopes for longevity. A “daidai Japanese orange is then positioned on prime of the mochi, together with leaves and different decorations.

Mochi Tsuki (餅つき), or pounding glutinous rice to make mochi, is a vital conventional occasion in preparation for Japanese New 12 months and it’s often carried out on the twenty eighth, which is taken into account an auspicious day.

New 12 months’s Eve – Omisoka

New 12 months’s Eve known as Omisoka (大晦日). The Japanese often rejoice New 12 months’s Eve and New 12 months’s Day with household as the vacation is equal to American Thanksgiving or Christmas.

After I was rising up, we often spent New 12 months’s day with my mom’s facet of the household. Whereas males within the household have been assigned to deep clear the home, all three generations of ladies (my grandma, my aunts, my mother, and I) gathered within the kitchen all day lengthy to make the normal Japanese New 12 months meals often called osechi ryori (おせち料理) or osechi (おせち) for brief.

Osechi ryori in 3 tier boxes.

Should you’re serious about making osechi ryori dishes, I’ve shared a scrumptious unfold of recipes right here. These symbolic meals comparable to kuromame (black soybeans), kuri kinton (candied chestnuts and candy potatoes), kamaboko, and so on, carry nicely that means for the brand new 12 months.

Sukiyaki cooked in a cast iron pot.

Every household has a unique custom for New 12 months’s Eve dinner, however the well-liked menus embrace sushi, sashimi, and scorching pot comparable to sukiyaki (above), yosenabe, and shabu shabu (under). In some areas of Japan, individuals even begin consuming osechi ryori on New 12 months’s Eve.

Tablesetup for shabu shabu - donabe hot pot, vegetables, meat, udon, and dipping sauces.

My household often ready Sukiyaki or Temaki Sushi (Hand Roll Sushi) because the final meal for the 12 months.

A sashimi platter with varioius sashimi (tuna, salmon, amaebi, uni, scallop, kanpachi, ikura and more), sushi rice, and vegetable platter.

At night time, many individuals get pleasure from watching a preferred music contest broadcasted by NHK (Japan Broadcasting Company) known as Kohaku Utagassen (紅白歌合戦). It’s a singing contest between the crimson group (feminine singers) and the white group (male singers). Additionally they have younger J-pop singers to Japanese ballad Enka singers, performing dwell on stage. On the finish of the present, the viewers forged their votes for the crimson or white group.

A Japanese bowl containing Toshikoshi Soba Noodle Soup with fish cake and wakame seaweed.

Earlier than the 12 months ends, the Japanese should eat Toshikoshi Soba (年越し蕎麦). It’s auspicious to eat buckwheat noodle soup as a result of the lengthy, skinny noodles symbolize longevity. We used to eat a small bowl of soba as a snack whereas watching the singing contest.

Joya no Kane

By Haruo.takagi [CC BY-SA 4.0], through Wikimedia Commons

So far as midnight traditions go, the Japanese keep up till midnight to hearken to the 108 chimes of temple bells, which we name joya no kane (除夜の鐘). Simply earlier than midnight, temples all through Japan strike their massive bells 108 instances.

In Buddhism, ringing the bell 108 instances is believed to assist individuals eliminate their evil passions and needs, and in return purifying their hearts for the upcoming 12 months. The bell is rung 107 instances on the thirty first and as soon as previous midnight.

By the way in which, anytime previous to 11:59 PM on December thirty first, the Japanese would say, Yoi otoshio! (良いお年を), which suggests “Have a pleasant 12 months!”

After the New 12 months, you say, Akemashite omedeto (gozaimasu)! (明けましておめでとうございます), which suggests “Congratulations on the New 12 months!”

New 12 months’s Day – Ganjitsu

In Japan, the New 12 months’s celebration takes place on the primary three days of the month. Most companies shut down from January 1st to January third, and households usually return to go to their hometowns and spend these few days collectively.


On Ganjitsu (元日), the primary day of the New 12 months, many individuals attempt to get up early within the morning to go to a scenic spot to greet the primary rising solar, hatsuhinode (初日の出).

Osechi ryori in 3 tier boxes.

Within the morning of January 1st, the household will get collectively to eat osechi ryori (おせち料理). The normal meals are packed in two to 3 layers of jubako bins (お重箱). What sort of meals will we eat? Please learn this put up devoted to osechi ryori.

A black and gold lacquered bowl containing Japanese New Year Soup Ozoni.

Together with osechi, the Japanese additionally eat mochi rice truffles and drink candy medicinal sake otoso (お屠蘇) and a mochi soup known as ozoni (お雑煮).

A black and gold lacquered bowl containing Japanese New Year Soup Ozoni.

Should you’re serious about making mochi soup, I’ve Kanto-style Ozoni and Kansai-style Ozoni recipes on my weblog.


After the meal, the household will get collectively to learn nengajo (年賀状), New 12 months’s greeting playing cards, that are specifically marked to be delivered on January 1st. Nengajo often has the Chinese language zodiac signal of the New 12 months, as every year is represented by an animal.

One of many thrilling issues for youngsters on New 12 months’s Day is to obtain otoshidama (お年玉), a cash reward in a small envelope, from their mother and father, kin, or acquaintances. I used to look ahead to visiting my dad facet’s massive household get-together the place I obtained otoshidama from my uncles and a few of my older cousins.

There are a few video games which are historically performed on the New 12 months. A few of my favorites embrace Japanese badminton with a wood rectangular racket known as hanetsuki (羽根つき), kite flying known as takoage (凧揚げ), and a card sport known as karuta (かるた) proven above.

Through the first three days of the New 12 months, the Japanese additionally go to a shrine or temple to hope for happiness and good luck within the coming 12 months, and this go to known as hatsumode (初詣).

Common shrines like Meiji Shrine (明治神宮) in Tokyo can simply appeal to a number of million individuals through the three days. Many ladies take this chance to costume up in colourful kimono (着物) for his or her go to. Guests may also purchase a superb luck appeal known as omamori (お守り) on the temple. It’s stored as a safety from sickness, accidents, and disasters.

Hanabira Mochi

As soon as the New 12 months begins, we’d serve blush pink mochi confections known as hanabira mochi (花びら餅). It is just accessible in January and is served on the first tea ceremony of the brand new 12 months. The semicircular mochi has sweetened items of burdock root protruding from each side and white miso in between.

Mentioned to be a simplification of hagatame no gishiki (歯固めの儀式), actually “tooth hardening ceremony,” it hails from the Heian interval (794-1185). Onerous meals comparable to wild boar, daikon, or salted sweetfish have been sandwiched between crimson and white mochi, and eaten by the Imperial Courtroom to want for a wholesome and lengthy life (with good tooth!) Over time, it took on the shape we see at present, the sweetfish filling changed by the burdock root.

The wagashi turned identified outdoors of Kyoto through the Meiji interval (1868-1912), due to the Urasenke (裏千家) household, a extremely distinguished tea faculty. In comparison with different wagashi varieties, hanabira mochi isn’t well-known and for individuals who do, is purchased than made at residence.

Japanese New 12 months (Oshogatsu)

Now that you’ve got realized how the Japanese rejoice New 12 months, I hope you’ve got the chance to go to Japan to expertise this particular time of the 12 months. I consider will probably be a spotlight of your keep.

As a Japanese dwelling abroad, I want that the spirit of the Japanese New 12 months celebration will proceed to be handed on to the following generations. It’s actually a time once we collect to understand the numerous customs which are steeped in historical past. 

Blissful New 12 months!


Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu!

Editor’s Word: This put up was initially printed on December 29, 2015. The pictures and content material have been up to date in December 2017.

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