Short on time?

Get essay writing help

Traditions of New Year or Oshogatsu in Japan

Words: 1004
Pages: 2
This essay sample was donated by a student to help the academic community. Papers provided by EduBirdie writers usually outdo students' samples.

Oshogatsu (New Year’s)

There are about three thousand festivals and celebrations in Japan and New Year’s or Oshogatsu is one of the most important holidays in Japan. Unlike the New Year’s celebration in the United States, the Japanese New Year’s is very traditional as it is directly tied to religion since most Japanese are Buddhists or Shintos.

It is believed that the ancestral deity called Toshigami, worshipped by the Shinto religion, will visit the homes of believers on New Year’s Day. If Toshigami is pleased with the preparations of cleaning and decorating a household has done for New Year’s, he will bring luck and fortune to everyone. Therefore, the Japanese started Osoji, or New Year’s Cleaning in late December to symbolize cleaning not only the house but also the mind and soul out of respect for the deity and other deities (Knox, 2018). After the Osoji cleaning, the Japanese will send Nengajo, New Year’s greeting postcards, with good wishes for the New Year. This practice can be traced back to the Heian period when nobility would send greetings to let people know they are well. Furthermore, the Japanese decorated their front door and entrances with Oshogatsu Kazari which is made of bamboo, pine, and straw. The Japanese also Kadomatsu as another decoration piece, made with cut bamboo and pine twigs and displayed at the entrances. These New Year’s decorations are to welcome the New Year’s God(Toshigami).

Mochi, Japanese rice cakes, is an essential part of the holiday. These rice cakes are made of a type of short-grain japonica glutinous rice called Mochigome. On every year for New Year’s, the Japanese displayed many Kagami Mochi around their homes. Kagami Mochi is a two-tier round mochi with a Daidai, a type of Japanese orange that also means generations, and decorative ornaments, around the house to welcome the deity, Toshamagi. The stacking of two mochis has high importance to the Japanese, as the bottom mochi represents the passing year and

the top mochi represents the coming year. It can also represent the balance of yin and yang. Kagami Mochi has symbolized the arrival of prosperity for generations. On January 11th, it is tradition to break open the rice cakes in a ritual known as Kagami Biraki (break) in order to bring good health and good fortune for the New Year (McGowan, 2019b). It is not customary to slice through the mochi as the action of such leads to the ominous connotation of cutting.

Save your time!
We can take care of your essay
  • Proper editing and formatting
  • Free revision, title page, and bibliography
  • Flexible prices and money-back guarantee
Place Order

During the Heian period (794-1185), Osechi Ryori was used in a ritual offering to Gods at the beginning of the year and eaten by members of royalty (Jordan, 2017). Since the Edo period (1603-1868), it has become a tradition for the Japanese to share special meals, or Osechi Ryori, with their families since it is forbidden to cook during the first three days of the year. Osechi Ryori is a variety of colorful dishes served inside stackable lacquered boxes. The food inside varies by region but can range from sweets to pickled vegetables and prepared proteins, with each dish having distinct tastes and special symbolic meanings. According to Fieldhouse (2017), the Japanese believed that Kuromame (sweet black beans) will bring good health for the following year. They also associated Ebi (prawns) with longevity because of the long antennae and spine of the animal, as well as, Kuri Kinton (mashed sweet potato and chestnut) is thought to bring financial success. Osechi Ryori is an extensive, methodical process and can take three to four days to prepare since each person will have their own plate setting with chopsticks to enjoy these delicious dishes from the lacquered boxes. Nowadays, Osechi Ryori sets can be purchased at restaurants, grocery stores, and even at convenience stores like 7-Eleven.

On New Year’s morning, it is customary to drink special sake or rice wine to purify the soul and ward off evil spirits. Another special meal for the Japanese on this holiday is Ozoni, a soup made with vegetables, meat, seafood, and large pieces of mochi representing long life. Ozone consumed on New Year will bring good luck. Each region of Japan makes its soup base a little differently (Matsumoto & Adarme, 2011). For instance, in Tokyo, people make soup based on chicken broth seasoned with soy sauce. And for Kyoto style, it is made with white bean paste.

It is extremely important for the Japanese to celebrate the New Year with their family. Before midnight on New Year’s Eve, Buddhist temples carry out a ritual called Joya No Kane. As such, a bell is rung 107 times before midnight and the final ring is done on January 1st to welcome the New Year. The total of 108 rings symbolizes expiring the 108 worldly sins from their lives, internally and externally, according to Buddhist beliefs (Knox, 2018). Most Japanese participate in hatsumōde to make the first prayer at the beginning of the year as it is customary to pay respect to a Buddha and one’s ancestor at a temple or shrine (Laninga, 2013). During the holiday, the Japanese would draw fortune slips called Omikuji, found at shrines and temples throughout the country, to determine what the New Year’s will bring (Wakai, 2006).

The Japanese have common societal practices done during the New Year, such as, children will receive Otoshidama (envelopes filled with money), similar to the Chinese New Year’s tradition of giving and receiving red envelopes from family members and elders. For the duration of New Year’s, numerous people will travel to stores in order to obtain mystery bags called fukubukuro (BBC News, 2019), containing goods sold at a discount price. This concept was invented in the Meiji period (1868-1912) and has been slowly reaching retail stores becoming a fun, meaningful part of the New Year’s celebratory practices. Kimonos are traditional Japanese garments worn on special occasions and New Year’s is no exception, it is not uncommon to see countless people decked out in their kimonos throughout this holiday festivity. On January 4th, people begin to return to their normal lives after the conclusion of the New Year celebrations.

Make sure you submit a unique essay

Our writers will provide you with an essay sample written from scratch: any topic, any deadline, any instructions.

Cite this Page

Traditions of New Year or Oshogatsu in Japan. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 30, 2023, from
“Traditions of New Year or Oshogatsu in Japan.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022,
Traditions of New Year or Oshogatsu in Japan. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 Sept. 2023].
Traditions of New Year or Oshogatsu in Japan [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 27 [cited 2023 Sept 30]. Available from:
Join 100k satisfied students
  • Get original paper written according to your instructions
  • Save time for what matters most
hire writer

Fair Use Policy

EduBirdie considers academic integrity to be the essential part of the learning process and does not support any violation of the academic standards. Should you have any questions regarding our Fair Use Policy or become aware of any violations, please do not hesitate to contact us via

Check it out!
search Stuck on your essay?

We are here 24/7 to write your paper in as fast as 3 hours.