I’m an exchange student from Japan. I heard Christmas is the biggest event here in Versailles, Kentucky; also it is the break day of school and work, and celebrate with family. However, we have school or work on Christmas day in Japan. We enjoy Christmas stuff like illumination, Christmas trees and Santa, but we just eat a great dinner on the day, so Christmas is a special event for Japanese people, but it is not a holiday. Moreover, I’m sure most families that have young children eat dinner together, but most people who graduated elementary school, hang out with friends on the day. Actually, I didn’t spend time with my family and hang out with my friends on the day from junior high school. The biggest event in Japan is New year. New year is a holiday and we don’t have school, and we spend time with family and relatives. Let me introduce the Japanese New year in this article.


~Before the day~

From December 26th, after Christmas, our preparations for the New Year start. We put decorations called Kad-mastu, Shimekazari and Kagamimochi. These have the meaning of happiness. Old Japanese people have thought these bring happiness for a year from long ago. These pictures are on the right side.

Moreover, we have a culture to write “Nengazyo” like postcards to friends and relatives. We put these in the post office by December 31. We exchange these with many people and celebrate New Year with each other.

On December 31st, our big event starts at night. We eat noodles called Toshikoshi-soba. There are various theories as to why we eat it on that day, so I will show you the most famous two theories. First one is to cut off the calamities of the year, because Soba is easier to cut than other noodles. Second one is to wish for long family fortunes, wealth and longevity, because the shape of soba is thin and long. Also, this day has some TV shows, which broadcast every year. For example, a music TV show. In this TV show, singers and idol groups that are popular in the year sing.


~Between the year, Dec.31 to Jan. 1~

Some temples’ ring the bell between the years. They ring 108 times every year. Left side is the picture. The main reason why temples do this is to banish annoying. One TV program showed a TV watcher to the live of the rigging bell. Japanese people feel the start of the New Year from it.


~January first~

In the night, most people stay up late, and send messages to friends or group chat through chatting apps, after the start of the New Year. I’m not sure adults do the same thing, but teens do that, so phone notifications are too much between January 1st 0:00 to 1:00. 

In the morning, we say “Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu” when we meet someone who knows each other. Moreover, relatives get together and eat traditional food and talk a lot. Then, children can get money called otoshidama from adults. Children, including me, are looking forward to getting money. Before lunch or after lunch, we go to the shrine and hope that this year will be a great, happy and healthy year. To go to a shrine on January 1st called Hatsumode. Left is a picture of a shrine.



~New year foods~


We eat Ozoni for breakfast. It’s a simple broth seasoned with soy sauce and salt. It also has rice cake, chicken and some vegetables. This dish is a little different in each place in Japan, like the taste and shape of the rice cake. This dish has the meaning of “Thankful for food and hope for good luck for a year”. Old Japanese ate this for good harvest, and the culture that eats this in January first still continues today. 

Lunch or Dinner 

We eat Osechi. Osechi has many kinds of dishes. Some people buy and some people make it. In my case, my family goes to my grandparents’ home and we spend New Year there, so we eat lunch at a restaurant and eat Oshechi for dinner. Each dish has a meaning, so I’m going to introduce some dishes and their meaning.

*Some menu of Osechi

-Black bean, made with so much brown sugar and beans. It’s very sweet. Meaning is to hope to work diligently.

-Rolled omelet, made with eggs and fish taste. Meaning is to hope for a wealth of knowledge. 

-Herring roe, these have the meaning of hoping descendants prosperity. 

-Red and white kamaboko, made by fishes, but it has a mild and sweet taste and does not taste fishy. Red one has the meaning of happy and then white one has the meaning of sacred. 

-Sea bream for celebration 

-Yellowtail, is called a successful fish, so it has the meaning of hoping to be able to succeed in the future life. 

-Shrimp, the meaning is hoping to live as long as the back curls up like a shrimp.

-Sweet chestnut sweets, sweets made with a lot of sugar and sweet chestnuts. It has the meaning of hoping to have a prosperous year. 



In Japan, we have so many things for the New Year, more than I shared here. I focused on the most important things for Japanese people, basic traditional things in this article. If you are interested in the Japanese New Year, I recommend you research yourself. It will help you know more about New Year. Thank you for reading this article!