New Year in Japan
2009 was the first year we spent New Years in Japan. In Japan, New Years is the biggest holiday and an excellent description can be found in a recent blog posting in Tokyo Five’s blog. Yes, this blog post is only 12 days late 🙂
Around New Years, you will also see several types of New Years decorations in homes, such as those pictured below.
Instead of fireworks and countdown parties on New Years Eve, many Japanese usually people stay home, eat lots of food, and watch the annual Kōhaku Uta Gassen (literally translated to Red and White Song Battle) singing contest on NHK TV – as a family, this is what we did on New Years Eve. As well, they may also pay a visit to a temple and ring the temple bell 108 times, which is a Buddhist tradition. We tried to visit Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo on January 1 along with 2-3 million (yes, that millions!) other people and needless to say, never got close to the shrine, only the main gate.
We received only a few New Years postcards (shouldn’t complain, we didn’t send out any, my bad). Usually, a personalized message is hand written and a serial number is printed in the back. The post office draws numbers for the New Years Postal Lottery and the winner number receives a prize. What did we win?
Finally, stores have their biggest sales (in Canada, it is December 26, known as Boxing Day) so shopping is a popular activity during this time. Many stores offer a “Lucky Bag”, known as fukubukuro, which contains various items in a sealed back sold at a discount (half price or more).
Below is a picture from Japan Today of young girls offering to exchange items from their fukubukuro (lucky bags) near 109 store in Shibuya.