In Japan, we will decorate a ‘Kagamimochi(鏡餅)’ to our house in the New Year. Kagamimochi is an ornament that puts oranges on top of two rice cakes. By the way, the role as an ornament will end on around January 10th, and rice cakes will be eaten by people.

Kagamimochi, 鏡餅

There are usually reasons for traditional Japanese customs. But, I do not know the reason or origin about this.


There is a custom called “Otoshidama(お年玉)” in Japan. It is a pocket money that parents and relatives give to children in the New Year. At that time, we will pass the cash in an envelope called ‘Otoshidama-bukuro(お年玉袋)’.

Otoshidama, お年玉

There is a chance of getting rich quick for kids with many relatives. However, in many cases, parents confiscate it while saying “I will save money for your future”. Of course it does not allow children to have a lot of money, and to make money circulate among relatives.

But in the past it was a custom that gives rice cake instead of cash.


There is a custom called ‘Nengajyo(年賀状)’ at new year in Japan. Write “年賀状” on the face of the postcard and put it in the post, it will be delivered to the other’s house on the morning of January 1.

Senga-hagaki, 年賀はがき

Japanese people communicate with each other and their friends acquaintance who have been unable to meet easily through Nengajyo. Some people keep friends only by exchange of Nengajyo.

However, this old-fashioned interaction is also getting ruined in recent years, because we can be easily contacted by SNS etc.


There is an “Eto(干支)” culture in Japan. It is a concept imported from ancient China as it is called Chinese Zodiac in English.

There are 12 kinds of animals allocated every year, and they change in order. This year’s animals are dogs, 2017 was rooster and 2016 was monkey.

Dog's ornament, 犬の置物

Of course, animals have no meaning, but the animal-related goods can be sold as a symbol of the year. In shorts it is one of commercial customs.


Osechi-ryouri is a traditional food to eat in the New Year.


In past Japan, there was a tradition that three days of New Year did not cook. For that reason, Japanese prepare side dish to be kept at the end of the previous year and packed it in a stackable box called “Jubako(重箱)”. In the New Year, we ate it with the whole family. Incidentally, rice is not packed in the box. We will prepare rice separately.

However, that custom is getting ruined. In the past, every shops were closed on New Year’s days, but now the New Year’s business has become commonplace and it is no longer necessary to prepare food.

Also, it takes time and effort to make traditional Osechi-ryouri. It was possible when many women were full-time housewives, but now it got harder.

However, we can buy Osechi-ryouri on the market.

Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu

The New Year ‘s classic greeting is “Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu(あけましておめでとうございます)”. In English it is translated as “A happy new year”, but if literal translation it is nuance like “Congraturationsm, because the year has come”.

In the past when Japan was not rich, people’s lives were not easy and the average life expectancy was short, so our ancestors celebrated that the New Year was came.

Flag of Japan, 日本国旗

By the way, the New Year in 1989 was silenced by the TV program on the word “congratulations”, because the former emperor was fighting ill.

Night Bell

In Japan, bells are played slowly 108 times at temples in various places during the time that changes from the night of December 31st to January 1st.    It is said that 108 is the number of people’s anxiety. Generally it will sound the 108th bell ringing at 0:00 on January 1 and inform us of the New Year’s visit. This is a custom that began in ancient times when there was no mechanical watch.

Temple bell, お寺の鐘

However, in recent years, there seems to be many temples that cancels this old-fashioned event, due to complaints of “disturbing” from local residents.

Zettai ni warattewaikenai

A comedy program broadcasted all over Japan on the evening of December 31 every year is a series “Zettai ni warattewaikenai(絶対に笑ってはいけない)”. In English it means “they should never laugh”. I think that this program is a great invention remaining in the history of television in the world. In recent years, enthusiastic fans of this program are also in foreign countries.

絶対に笑ってはいけないアメリカンポリス24時The plot is the same every year. Five regular comedians are gathered in one place and do the tasks given one after another. The outcome of the task has no particular meaning. However, the person laughing during that time is the rule that hips are struck with a stick.

Every year, various gimmicks appear, somehow trying to make those five comedians laugh. Five comedians will not be beaten unless they laugh, However, they can not stand laughing because comedians are sensitive to funny things. Therefore, five comedians are beaten 100 times or more each year. Nonetheless they do not laugh for everything. The criteria for making them laugh are high. It is a serious confrontation for production staff.

There are many places that you can not understand if you are not familiar with Japan, but please enjoy it if you have a chance to see it.